It may not be too soon to say the St. Louis Cardinals emerged on the better end of the Albert Pujols 2011 sweepstakes.
The 33-year-old slugger has more than eight years of his $240 million contract remaining to provide production, but on Tuesday Pujols faced his former team for the first time sporting a losing record and zero playoff appearances in anything other than a Cardinals uniform.
St. Louis, meanwhile, is only gaining respect precisely because of what it achieving without players like Pujols. The Cardinals entered Tuesday 17 games above .500.
During his 11 years with the Cardinals, the three-time MVP led the major leagues in batting average (.328), home runs (445) and RBIs (1,329). He entered Tuesday as a banged up designated hitter with a .249 average, 13 home runs and 49 RBIs on the season.
While the Angels are yet to reap the benefits they expected from signing one of the game’s all-time greatest players, Pujols maintains that the best path was for him to leave St. Louis.
“I’m happy with the decision I made and I’m not going to change a thing,” Pujols said. “I’m excited to be here. What I learned in those 11 years there, I’m going to try and bring here. That’s my goal. I can’t go back and think about ‘Oh, I wish, I wish, I wish.’ I think that’s disrespecting this organization and disrespecting the commitment Mr. (Angels owner Arte) Moreno and the Angels front office made to me and my family.”
Aside from spending most of batting practice chatting with his old teammates, Pujols spent considerable time on Monday’s off day with catcher Yadier Molina, among other Cardinals.
He didn’t want to reminisce when he met with the media before the game, but Pujols made clear his respect for his former organization.
“You can’t forget the success you had with those guys over the last 11 years with St. Louis,” Pujols said. “I stay in touch with them. That’s something very special. That’s something that nobody can take away, how those fans in St. Louis treated me and everybody in the community through my foundation. To have the success I had there, that’s something nobody can take away.”