The 2011 World Series marked the final games in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform for both manager Tony La Russa and first baseman Albert Pujols (though La Russa would return for the 2012 All-Star Game).
La Russa retired and Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. On Friday, Brenden Schaeffer of KMOV quoted La Russa, who criticized the Cardinals for the offer that they gave Pujols.
La Russa's candid view on Cardinals initial offer to Pujols: "I do think they embarrassed Albert and really kind of sent the wrong message."
— Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12) June 2, 2017
Putting some of the pieces together, the timing of La Russa’s statement is odd.
Schaeffer later stated that he wasn’t sure what the offer that “embarrassed” Pujols was. But an ESPN report from 2011 quoted Pujols’ wife, and indicated that a five-year, $130 million offer is what bothered the Pujols family. Pujols and his wife were specifically bothered by the length. Now that we’ve got the benefit of hindsight, that seems like it would have been a much better deal for the Cardinals, Angels, or whatever team wanted to sign Pujols.
From 2012-2016, Pujols slashed at .266/.325/.474 and averaged 29 home runs a year. It’s not bad by any means, but during his previous five-year run (2007-2011), Pujols slashed at .324/.423/.602 and averaged 39 home runs a year.
Los Angeles has to be looking at that decline and wondering what the next five years will bring. Or, to put it another way, if the Angels had the opportunity to get out of the remainder of Pujols’ deal for free, does anyone really think they wouldn’t take it? Mind you, the blow is even softened for the Angels, where Pujols can (and does) play primarily DH. In St. Louis, no such option would have been available.
Lastly, we can’t completely overlook the success of the two teams in question since Pujols went from Missouri to California.
While the Cardinals have yet to win a World Series since Pujols’ absence, they’ve returned to the Fall Classic once (2013), reached the NLCS on two other occasions (2012, 2014), and lost in the NLDS once (2015). That’s four playoff trips in five years, three of them yielded deep runs.
The Angels, meanwhile, has qualified for the postseason once (2014), and that trip yielded an ALDS sweep.
The bottom line is that heading into the 2012 season, Pujols was a 32-year-old. Signing anyone that age to a 10-year contract is just a bad decision. No, Los Angeles was not the first (or last) to do it. But given the circumstances, the kind of deal that St. Louis offered (less years, big money per year) was far more reasonable.
It was nothing to be embarrassed about then. It’s certainly nothing to criticize now.