The Angels released Albert Pujols just 9.18 seasons into a 10-year deal worth nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. It’s a rather abrupt and unceremonious end to his time with the California Los Anaheim Angels of America, but it’s probably overdue. Fine. The Angels could have at least held the door open as they pushed him through it, but what’s done is done.
I get where they are coming from (or at least flatter myself in thinking my ideas make sense). The 2021 version of Pujols is only slightly more productive than Jim Gaffigan who is a comedian and not a baseball player. He (Pujols not Gaffigan) hasn’t been a solid producer since 2016 which is like 5 years and over $100M ago.
This isn’t simply about replacing him with someone who is better, younger, or able to play positions other than 1B, although any one of those reasons is justification enough for the move. This is also about Shohei Ohtani and his ability to go both ways. Because he’s doing repetitive baseball throwing activities with a catcher every 5 games, the DH spot is the best option for letting him rest his arm while still getting his bat into the lineup. Sans Pujols the Angels can fill the void at 1B with someone who doesn’t need to compete with Ohtani for DH time.
Depending on how they shuffle the deck the Angels should be able to now upgrade at least one position if not more, and it’s unlikely that they’ll need to spend a lot to do so. This seems like a completely reasonable move for a team sitting at 13-16 whether they believe that they can compete this year or not.
Moving on from Pujols was an inevitability. Spending the money was a certainty. Might as well embrace both now, take any PR backlash (if any), and rearrange the pieces to move forward.
But what about Pujols?
In an unscientific study that I didn’t actually do, I concluded that at least 80% of Cardinals fans want to see Pujols back with Stl.
This isn’t shocking at all. It also sounds like a less-than-stellar baseball decision. Pujols wouldn’t start over Goldschmidt, he isn’t a great candidate for pinch running, and he probably isn’t stretched out enough to be a long reliever.
However, it could be a prudent business decision. Imagine all the fans who burned or discarded his jersey back in 2011 going out and buying new ones. Think of all the fans that will pack Busch Stadium’s limited capacity seats to watch him hit his 700th home run (at some point in 2022/3). Focus on the fairytale ending where he hits one over the train tracks to send Brad Lidge into a downward spiral……sorry, got confused.
I kid. The combination of age, ailments, and a COVID-abbreviated season contrived to wreck his chances at various milestones like 700 home runs, and it’s unlikely that all that many people tossed expensive jerseys. The real value in bringing Pujols back to St. Louis is in fan appreciation, and you really can put a dollar value on that. Bringing a favorite son back into the fold would undoubtedly endear the DeWitt family, Mo, and Girsch to many, and doing so would certainly move the needle on the goodwill scale.
If it’s a low risk move that doesn’t hurt the team’s chances and doesn’t forcefully block someone from playing, then why not?
Actually, I wouldn’t do this, but I would totally be on-board with bringing him back in some capacity that doesn’t involve running bases. Hitting coach? Special assistant to the GM? Translator? Heck, make up a spot and parade him around Busch for all to see.