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Albert Pujols In Sun And Shade

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MAY 02: Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels walks to the dugout after striking out against the Seattle Mariners ninth inning at T-Mobile Park on May 02, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Albert Pujols has never played for a team named the Senators, has never been a senator himself, and to our best research has never even spoken to a senator. And if he has, shame on him. Senators Week is a rearview mirror experience now.

And so, quite possibly, is Pujols himself. Having been released by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and All The Ships At Sea, owner Arte Moreno’s greatest gamble has run its course, only 130 games short of the actual scheduled finish line, and it is safe to say that it did not have the effect either man hoped it would.

Pujols did make a quarter-billion dollars over 10 years, but he did not make the Angels either better or more famous. He moved west from St. Louis in 2012, and the Angels have not drawn as many fans as they did in 2011. They averaged fewer wins per year with him than in the decade before he arrived (which included the team’s only championship), and they did not become more beloved in Southern California viz. the Dodgers than they were before he got there. They didn’t even get the expected bewilderingly lucrative TV deal Moreno was actually going for when he tossed that quarter-bill at him. The Angels are as they were, minus about seven percent.

Then again, they haven’t spiked in any department for Mike Trout either, so this might not be Pujols’s failure at all. The signing was a calculated marketing gamble at the time, as he was entering his age-32 year (allegedly) and did not project to sustain the impact he had with the St. Louis Cardinals, from whence he came. He slowly declined over the life of the contract, as is normal for all of us under the time’s-a-bastard clause of human existence.

On the other hand, Pujols probably would have declined if he’d stayed in Missouri, too, only without the sweet, sweet duffel bags of cash that lured him westward. Moreno gambled that Pujols would connect to Orange County and it with him, and it made no discernible difference either way. He came, he saw, he got paid and he did stuff, though not nearly as often or as prodigiously as before. Baseball people predicted that, but he wasn’t a baseball signing. He was more a marketing decision by a man who wanted a brighter light to cast a bigger shadow. The Angels won the World Series before he bought the team, so his reputational bonafides were fairly stagnant, and with eight years of stasis on his trading card, glory-wise, he decided to capture the thing most responsible for winning the Cardinals the 2011 World Series.

But as penumbrae go, Punxsutawney Pujols (apologies, kids) was the one most affected, as his shadow shrunk faster than that of the already-eclipsed Angels or of Moreno himself. It was proof if proof were needed that some teams just are destined for anonymity, and the indisputably superb Mike Trout exists largely to double-check our work on the anonymity crack.

In other words, what we have in Albert Pujols is a breezy Hall of Famer whose best years predated his entire Angels’ career, and it is safe to say that other than Trout, Moreno has been more careful with how he splashes his cash, and much more trepidatious in the shoals of free agency. Pujols did what he could do (he played 150-ish games per years through year six of his Angels experiment) but Moreno gained nothing for the bother, and that’s on Moreno, just like it will be on Moreno when Trout’s career hits E.

But if you still have that warm and cuddly guy-remembering feeling for Albert Pujols, you’ll have to hope someone has a warmer feeling for him than the Chicago White Sox, who have indicated a lack of interest in signing him, apparently resisting whatever urging manager Tony La Russa might have expended upon his bosses. Maybe the Cardinals would give him a game a week to rest Paul Goldschmidt. It could be the curtain call Arte Moreno didn’t have any more patience to endure.

But Pujols, at apogee and perigee, does inspire a different idea. Who’s up for Angels Week, kids?