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Bob Lutz: Pujols strikes it rich

  • Lutz
  • Published Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011, at 7:33 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, at 8:03 a.m.

My friends have been great today, texting me and calling me to make sure I’m all right after Albert Pujols’ decision to accept a 10-year, $254 million contract from the Los Angeles Angels.

My reply to these caring people has been: “I’m holding up, but not doing as well as Pujols.”

I’ve found that humor – at least my attempts at humor – help me overcome even the most difficult of times. And the thought of a Cardinals lineup without Pujols qualifies as depressing.

But life goes on and Cardinals fans have had a sufficient amount of time to prepare ourselves for the loss of Pujols. When he failed to agree to a nine-year, $198 million extension offered by the Cardinals after the 2010 season it was a sign that negotiations with Pujols would be difficult.

And when the Miami Marlins stepped up with a 10-year offer during the winter meetings this week in Dallas, I knew the Cardinals were in trouble. The Angels went to the extreme, considering Pujols will be 32 when the 2012 season begins and 41 when this contract expires.

Truthfully, there is some excitement in this process. The Cardinals have a good team, with our without Pujols. I’m not going to sit here and tell you they’re not better with Pujols. That would be crazy and heaven knows I’m not crazy.

But I’m curious to see what general manager John Mozielak has up his sleeve. Pujols’ decision saved the Cardinals a ton of money. I would expect they’ll try to shore up their middle infield even though free-agent options are limited.

Like most Cardinals fans, I had fallen in love with the notion that Pujols would retire as a Cardinal. That he would hit his 600th and 700th home run as a Cardinal. That he would get his 3,000th hit as a Cardinal.

That won’t happen. Pujols spent the first 11 years of his career in St. Louis, doing things no other hitter had done. And now it’s over and we’re all struggling with what to do with that.

It doesn’t seem real.

But Pujols isn’t unlike any other professional athlete. They have a relatively short span of time to make their money and trust me, they all want to make their money.

The romance of the game is better left to people like me because it doesn’t exist with players. When you’re cashing the kinds of checks these guys cash, romance is just another seven-letter word.

I harbor no bitterness toward Pujols because he’s like the rest of’ these guys. He’s like I would be if I had the opportunity.

After 11 seasons in St. Louis, I’m sure he felt under-appreciated. Taken for granted. It’s that way with most people who spend time doing a job in the same place for an extended period of time.

The Angels, with their gargantuan monetary commitment, made Pujols feel like the best player on the planet. The numbers he amassed as a hitter are one thing; but the numbers in this new contract are what matter most to Pujols.

That doesn’t make him different than any other professional athlete. In fact, it makes him exactly the same.

So good luck in Anaheim, Albert. I do believe there will come a time, long into your life, when you wonder what it would have been like to have spent your entire career in St. Louis, where baseball is a religion.

But you’re too young to appreciate that now. And there are just too many zeroes in your paycheck to look past.

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