Albert Pujols is a certain Hall-Of-Famer. But would he have gone down as the best ever if he stayed in St. Louis?
Albert Pujols made his professional debut in 2001, two years after getting selected 402nd in the 1999 draft. He immediately exceeded all expectations by winning the National League Rookie of the Year. Over the next 11 years with the Cardinals, Pujols proceeded to build quite the impressive résumé. He was a nine-time All-Star, a three-time National League Most Valuable Player, and a two-time World Series winner. In 2011, after winning that second World Series, he became a free agent.
Departure From St. Louis
Entering free agency, Pujols had quite the pedigree. What made him most attractive was his dedication and hard work, he was always the first player to arrive at the field, and the last to leave. On and off the field, Albert Pujols was the type of player everyone wanted to have on their team. Not many people though, thought he could be lured away from St. Louis. He was the face of the franchise, and he had no reason to leave, most thought it was only a matter of time before he resigned.
Six years later, after signing a monster 10-year deal of $240 million with the Los Angeles Angles due to the Cardinals underbidding and ‘disrespecting’ him, Albert Pujols has just added to his pedigree. The future Hall of Famer joined the elite 600 Homerun Club, which is comprised of Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, and now Albert Pujols.
Downhill in L.A.
Despite this monumental accomplishment, is this how Pujols wanted the latter part of his career to go? It’s hard to argue that these past six years have gone exactly as Pujols wanted. Obviously he’s getting older but looking at his splits between the Angels and the Cardinals, they are significantly different.
During his 11-year career with St. Louis, Pujols had a .328 batting average, .420 on base percentage, .618 slugging percentage and averaged 40 homer runs per a year. Excluding 2017, during his current 5-year span with the Angels, he has a .266 batting average, .325 on base percentage, .474 slugging percentage and is averaging 29 homer runs per a year. It would seem that Albert isn’t the same player on the Angels that he was on the Cardinals.
What Could Have Been?
This begs the question, why leave when everything is going great? Pujols literally had everything; he had one of the greatest coaches of all time, an unbelievably hot team that had just won a world series, and most importantly success. Don’t get me wrong, Pujols has the right to entertain other teams in free agency, but why not try and negotiate all the ‘problems’ away with the Cardinals?
I wonder how many times since he signed with the Angels he has second-guessed his decision to leave the Cardinals. For me, the latter part of Pujols, is one of the ultimate ‘what if’s’. If he stayed, would he have reached 600 home runs sooner? Would he have continued on his path to having a shot at breaking the all-time home run record? We know to a degree where Pujols ranks all-time right now, but where would he rank if he stayed with the Cardinals, would his legacy be any different?