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Where Are They Now: Albert Pujols

Ahhh, the  most high-profile “Where Are They Now” installment CardsBlog fans have ever laid eyes on. We had segments on the likes of Nick Punto, Octavio Dotel, and Edwin Jackson, but no single player on the Cardinals 2012 World Series roster had a more prominent departure from the team than this guy. Today, we take a look at the one, the only, Angels 1B Albert Pujols.

While many Cardinals fans still have a bitter taste in their mouths after Pujols spurned the team for Los Angeles in the offseason, let’s not forget that Pujols was instrumental in two World Series championships in 2006 and 2011. For the better part of 11 years with the Cardinals, since his rookie season in 2001, Pujols was the premier hitter in all of baseball, coupling tremendous power with consistent .300+ batting averages year after year. Need a clearer picture of the type of production Pujols put up? Here are his yearly averages for his 11 seasons with the Cardinals: .325/40/120/.420/.617/1.037. Oh, and that doesn’t include 3 MVP’s, 2 Gold Gloves, a Rookie of the Year award, and 9 All-Star Game appearances. Not too shabby, huh? Arguably, even more memorable than any of those accolades Pujols garnered is Pujols’ 3-homer game against Texas in Game 3 of the World Series last year.

Despite all of the great years Pujols had with the Cards, he certainly did not receive a free pass in the offseason when he jumped ship to the American League and the highest bidder in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who gave him a lucrative 10 year, $240 million contract. Many pundits got on Pujols for solely leaving for the money, but there was a quite a significant divide among the common folk, as some defended his right to choose a destination in free agency and others played the loyalty card.

Nevertheless, the talk died down quickly as both the Cards and Angels headed into spring training. People were curious to see how Pujols responded to the new environment/staffs/ballparks, but very few people envisioned the type of putrid April that Pujols had. In the entire month of April, Pujols batted a paltry .217 with 0 HR and just 4 RBI. There was immediately talk that Pujols was washed up and on the back, back end of his career. The Angels then fired their batting coach, Mike Butcher, and Pujols immediately took off, smashing 8 HR and driving in 24 runs in the month of May. Albert must have taken his omission from the AL All-Star roster personally, because he has been on an absolutely tear since the All-Star break in mid-July. Coming into action Thursday night, he has hit .322 with 15 HR, 37 RBI, and a mind-boggling, Barry Bonds-esque .704 slugging percentage. Sandwiched between the likes of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo in the middle of that Angels lineup, Pujols is well on his way to another 35+ HR, 100+ RBI season. While the Angels would not be in the playoffs if they were to start today, Pujols has more or less done what he has been paid to do: produce. Putting aside the dollar amounts, which is never easy to do, Pujols remains one of, if not the most, feared right-handed hitters in all of baseball.

From a Cardinals perspective, April must have been a glorious month to see Pujols languishing out in California. Not to mention the fact that offseason signee Carlos Beltran, tabbed with replacing Pujols’ punch in the lineup, was putting up monster offensive numbers for the Cards in the first half. When you compare the two players, there is not all that much difference in their production: Pujols – .285/29/88/.346/.538/.884 & Beltran – .268/28/85/.340/.507/.847. For the Cardinals, on the hook for only two years of Beltran, the trade-off seems to be working out very nicely, especially when you consider the financials of both players’ contracts.

The Angels are happy. The Cardinals are happy. Pujols is happy. Another ex-Cardinal flourishing with a new team, but the Cardinals’ brass should still be able to sleep at night knowing they did not go the extra mile to re-sign Pujols.

**Note: All statistics are through August 29, 2012

For more Cardinals news, notes, and analysis, follow Bradley Baskir on Twitter: @BradleyBaskir

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