BY PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
Well is there a St. Louis fan left in America who thinks the Cardinals made the wrong move with Albert Pujols?
I can't imagine there's one out there. I sure haven't met them yet if they exist.
If there is please take a little time to consider the facts. First and foremost is the sustained success the Cardinals have had in his immediate absence.
This isn't really an argument for St. Louis being better without him, but better without the giant albatross that would have been his contract.
Pujols, as fans remember, signed a massively lucrative deal with the Angels prior to the 2012 season. The Angels deal is shocking and staggering any way you measure it.
And I'm convinced by the end it will be viewed as one of the worst baseball contracts in the history of the game. It will rival, if not surpass, the legendary Alex Rodriquez pact with the Yankees.
The initial shock is that the contract was back loaded. That means Pujols' services are the cheapest in the opening years of the deal and escalate at the end. According to baseball-reference.com, Pujols will be paid 30 million in 2021. He will be 41 years old.
No sports player is worth that. I don't care how much merchandise he moves or if he breaks the home run record.
In my mind, that's an unjustifiable sum for any sports franchise.
Pujols rewarded the Cardinals by being the offensive centerpiece of a pair of World Series title teams. The Angels took a huge risk signing him to such a lucrative deal, but a season and a half into the decade-long contact have yet to reap results.
The Angels had a solid year, winning 89 last year, but missed the wild-card spot by four games. This season is vastly different as they scuffle around several games away from a winning season. Now it looks like Pujols could miss as much as the rest of the season because of injury.
Pujols' performance on the field has slipped since moving to the Angels. His numbers were down a bit in his final St. Louis year. Still all-star caliber but less than the gaudy stats from previous seasons.
That production appears to be trending downward still. He's had decent numbers with the Angels but nothing near his opening decade in the majors.
The Cardinals as a team haven't missed a step without him. They've been able to cultivate young talent to absorb any lost production from the mighty slugger.
Both Yadier Molina and Allen Craig enter Tuesday's doubleheader against the Pirates in the top four in batting average. Within the last year both players signed contract extensions. It's a classic two-for-one move by the Cardinals management. Odds are if Pujols would have signed an extension, the club couldn't have paid Molina and Craig. Neither have the gaudy career numbers of Pujols but together they more than make up for his loss.
It might be too simple to just look at the two teams success over the past two years or so, but it's nearly impossible to say the Cardinals made the wrong move. They made the playoffs without Pujols and even with a bit of a bump in the road the last week, appear to be headed back there again this season.
Paul Hines is the sports editor at the Register-News.