Greed. That’s what some St. Louis Cardinals fans are calling it—an act of pure and simple greed. That Albert Pujols is just another fine example of an athlete who talks one thing, then does another as soon as big money is dangled in front of him.
That backstabbing bastard.
Look, I understand that Cardinals fans are upset at losing the face of their franchise. Pujols was a hero to so many, and heroes aren’t supposed to leave the people who care about them. But this isn’t a personal thing. It’s a business move, and I think it's time to take a step back and realize that, behind all the October drama, baseball is a business.
Athletes spend their lives being dehumanized by stats, numbers and projections. They are flesh and blood managed by something as sterile as a spreadsheet. It’s an impersonal business that is too often taken personally.
Sure, every so often the game allows a player to transcend this, but at the end of the day—like today—when contracts are being negotiated and finances mapped out, it all boils down to the dollars. Some people have them and some don’t. The Cardinals won the World Series, but they got beat in the Pujols contract negotiations.
There are folks up in arms on Twitter and elsewhere that Pujols got greedy and betrayed them: "He was such a man of character! I guess now we see his true colors."
No, I think his true colors have not changed at all. He is still the man he used to be, just in a different uniform. Albert's personal character is good for the game as a whole, but his baseball playing skills earned superior compensation. Don't rob the integrity of one by angrily mixing it with the other. He’s a caring, conscientious player who considers the impact he can make in a community, and I believe the care he had for St. Louis will continue into his new home.
I won’t lie and tell you that money didn’t have something to do with his decision to go when it obviously had everything to do with it. But that doesn’t make him greedy. In fact, it may turn out to make him a better agent of change than he was before.
If he is the man you believed him to be, possessing the integrity that you swear is being betrayed, then consider that while there might not have been much he couldn’t buy for himself with the deal the Cardinals offered, there is a lot he can buy his family for generations to come. His foundation and charitable causes gain that much more muscle. This is not a question of selfish greed, but knowing what his compensation can do.
It’s always easy to demonize a player for going with dollars over emotions, but to hate a person for doing what many of us would do ourselves if put in the same scenario is hypocritical. Besides, Albert did so much for St. Louis while he was there, both in terms of impact on the field and off of it. To hate him now is bad form. It makes fans look worse than Pujols, and I know that St. Louis fans are much classier than that.
I think that Albert will always love St. Louis. How could he not? He had so many great accomplishments there. But now his term of service has run out, and a more interested party would like to have the man, as well as the Machine, on their team.
It’s the circle of baseball player life, one that, if we are being honest, we knew existed right from the start. Greatness will rise and fall in this game, and fans will love and hate it in equal measure.
But this relocation of Albert is not a personal attack, so please, fans, don’t turn it into one. Thank the man for his dedication while he was under the employ of your team, and hope that he continues his success, and integrity, in his new home.
Dirk Hayhurst is a pitcher most recently in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Bullpen Gospels. His new book, Out of My League, is available for pre-order now. Visit his website at DirkHayhurst.com.