It came as a big shock to fans of the St. Louis Cardinal — not to
mention fiscal sanity — last week when slugger Albert Pujols, 31, bolted the Gateway to the West in favor of going west, to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He signed a mammoth 10-year, $254 million contract with the Angels, making him one of the wealthiest team-sport players in American history.
I know all of my Cardinal-fan friends are distressed at the notion that their team couldn’t hold on to a future hall of famer, the franchise’s most remarkable performer since Stan “The Man” Musial, or at least since Bob Gibson. But the Cardinal fans should be happy. Their team played it right.
Pujols will likely begin to slow down, if not break down outright, in a few years, with much of the time remaining on his deal. It's just the way it goes. When baseball players in the post-steroids age hit 35 years of age, they have difficulty matching their performances of the halcyon days. Pujols will likely be no different. Just ask Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez about it sometime. He sure has declined in the past few seasons.
The Cardinals will be lambasted in the Missouri press for being cheap, petty, and shortsighted. But the barbs are misplaced. The team now frees up millions of dollars that it can deploy for much-needed starting pitching.
I wouldn't be shocked if the Cards win the World Series before the Angels do. The Cardinals won the World Series this season, and they have a strong core of promising players.
The Angels can now make inroads into the Los Angeles baseball market. The Dodgers are in financial difficulty and the team's prospects don't look bright on the field, either. Pujols may put up gargantuan numbers in 2012 and 2013 and even 2014 — but check back with me in year nine of this contract. I'd bet his statistics would be down, down, down by then.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.
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