Pujols: A True St. Louis Tragedy

Albert, Welcome to Loneliness. Albert in the heart of the Mojave desert. Photo collaboration w/ Karen Blaha (CC)

Dear Albert,

This isn’t going to be a love letter.  It’s really not intended to be hate mail either.  I, as a former St. Louisan, huge baseball fan, and believer in good graces of the universe would like to say that I’m officially heart-broken.  You “LeBroned” us.  Let me explain this formula in case you’ve forgotten about LeBron James, like I have:

1) You have overwhelming talent and kindness that quietly bring attention to your skills, not your attitude. “A lot of people said I could be a good player. I just wanted the opportunity to show it. I just let it happen.” -Pujols (Source)

2) You call some pretty average midwestern town home, or nearly so (Albert went to college in Kansas City).

3) You land a huge contract in or close to your “hometown”.  Well, I guess it was only $100 million over 7 years, but that’s probably enough for bread and wine for a while.

4) You play as promised, and promise to play for the home team.  You excel.  You have people who you’d never want to meet tattooing your number on their arm, their …ahhem… other parts.  You can’t even imagine leaving as long as the team respects you and works to keep you happy. “I’m not going to lie to you: It’s not about the money all the time,” Pujols said after a brief round of hitting and a round of hugs with teammates. “It’s about being in a place to win and being in a position to win. If the Cardinals are willing to do that and put a team together every year like they have, I’m going to try to work everything out to stay in this town.”  – Pujols (source)

5) You sign lots of autographs and inspire a whole generation of locals to want to play ball.  You bring the town together like no politician ever will.  You are the President and the Dali Lama of St. Louis, and you had the heart to share all of your successes. “Pujols drew loud cheers along the parade route and a long standing ovation at the stadium. When asked on the podium if he’d like to be back for another celebration next season, he smiled sheepishly and said, “Hey, why not?” (Source)

7) Why not?  Money.

Yes, you left for money.  You won’t convince any diehard fans otherwise.  For goodness sake, you just won the world series.  How’s that for a winning franchise.

I know, the Redbirds only offered about $220 million dollars against the Halos $254.  How would you possibly be able to live a meaningful life without that extra $34 mil?  Maybe you’ll give that extra pocket change to charity – good response.  But there’s one problem: I believe that the Cardinals organization would have worked with you to help raise and donate a similar amount of money in the contract you declined.  I promise the good people of St. Louis would have helped make it work.  LA, well, that’s a LA story.

Welcome to loneliness Albert.  LA is not filled with people who love you in the same way as St. Louis.  You’re a mercenary now, a hired gun, a bunch of numbers under the columns labeled “HR” and “RBI”.  Nothing more than a “true” machine.  And trust me, LA won’t be as forgiving as St. Louis if you happen to have a kinda lackluster World Series or Playoff series.  You’re getting money for your numbers, not your spiritual leadership or your kindness.  Sadly, I think you’ll find St. Louisans may chose to disown you.  This was the town to carry you into recognition beyond the hallowed Hall.  You were to be as big as the Arch and as sweet as the ice cream cone.  Musial never left for bigger coin.  Gibson, Ozzie, McGee, or Bob Forsch are true St. Louisans that didn’t LeBron us (although some were traded).  Your $34 million of extra “LA dollars” won’t ever buy what I bet you’ll desire most in LA – credibility and compassion and that “St. Louis feel”.

What happened?  Where the winters too cold.  The surf maybe was a little weak, huh?  Maybe you got sick of winning with a group of really great down home players.  Was it your greedy agent, maybe, but lets remember who’s paying who in this situation.  Yes, I know that Tony left, but that is exactly why your leadership was so much more significant as the Redbirds move into a new era.

Although I do appreciate all you’ve done for St. Louis, this ending hurts.  The words at the parade and in the press of how you’ll stay if things are good – what was that.  Those are what hurt.  We have heroes in this town called St. Louis.  I think you’ve fallen off that list.

Sincerely,

Lech Naumovich

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