Albert Pujols Returns to St. Louis Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. -Adam Wainwright vividly remembers where he was on that sad December morning when the best harvester of his generation left St. Louis. Louis Cardinals.

“I was on the golf course, at hole No. 4 at Frederica Golf Club at home when I found out he had signed with the Angels,” said Wainwright, who lives in St. Louis. Simons Island, Ga. “It was a life. -Change, change moment, how great that was.

That was in 2011, just after Albert Pujols won his second championship with the Cardinals. A day like Monday, when Pujols signed a $ 2.5 million deal to get back to St. Louis. Louis for the farewell period, it seemed impossible. He was 31 when the Angels gave him $ 240 million to play for them over the next decade, plus a personal service contract for another decade after his retirement. It would look like a permanent shedding of a perfect fit.

“Is it a sad day, a dark day?” John Mozeliak, the Cardinals president of baseball operations, said Monday morning. “Yes, sure. But in this industry, especially in baseball, you have to keep thinking ahead. You have to look ahead. ”

And so the two parties went ahead and split, never to taste a title again. Without the Cardinals, Pujols has only made two trips in the postseason. Without Pujols, the Cardinals would have made seven but only reached a World Series, a six -game loss to Boston in 2013.

Pujols collected milestones along the way: his 500th and 600th home runs and his 3,000th hit. He is the only player to have achieved the basics of a career with at least two championships.

Departure from St. Louis marks a clear dividing line, though, and Pujols ’worst season with the Cardinals was better than his best for the Angels. But because he kept the foundation of his family in St. Louis. Louis, Pujols always felt connected.

“I feel, yes, maybe I’m wearing a different uniform, but I feel like I’m not leaving,” she said, adding that she always comes back for charity activities. “People still treat me the same way, even if I’m wearing the Cardinal uniform, even if I’m wearing the Angels or the Dodgers, they never change. That’s what’s special about Cardinals fans. They love you when you wear their uniform, but they still love you because you are part of this organization.

Now – as the mayors ’oldest player, at age 42 – Pujols is officially back, mostly because of his performance after the Angels released him in May. Pujols joined the Dodgers and played 85 games, hitting .254 with 12 home runs. Overall, he beat left-handed for .603 percent slugging. With the designated National League hitter now, Pujols can make an impact.

“Oh, he has left,” said Oliver Marmol, the Cardinals ’first year manager. “He has more than the rest. Albert wants to play this year because he can help a team win.

The Cardinals, who lost to the Pujols’s Dodgers in the NL wild-card game in October, will open the season without two of their better young pitchers, right-handers Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes, who have injuries to abaga. But the team has signed two free agent pitchers – left -hander Steven Matz and right -hander Drew VerHagen, who has revived his career in Japan – and has catcher Yadier Molina, 39, guiding staff.

Molina and Pujols are absolutely adamant it will be their final season, and Wainwright, 41, said he relies on that as well. All three royalties in St. Louis, with Pujols bringing a more regal air to an organization that prides itself on tradition.

“This organization didn’t close the door on me, and I also didn’t close the door on the organization,” Pujols said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

Molina and Wainwright are excited to meet again with Pujols, constantly harassing him on FaceTime about his plans. When Pujols arrived at the team’s spring training complex on Monday, he found Wainwright asleep before he started and woke him up with a bear hug. During the game, fans roared as Pujols walked from the right corner of the field to the Cardinals dugout. He didn’t smile so he wouldn’t cry.

“I’m a pretty emotional person,” Pujols said. “It won’t last long.”

Pujols played 76 games on first base last season but understood he would not fire Cardinals Paul Goldschmidt, a four -time Gold Glove winner and one of the most reliable sluggers in the league. Pujols said he would do whatever Marmol wanted, and hoped to coach young players like teammates like Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria did for him as a rookie in 2001.

Wainwright saw this already happening. After his outing on Monday, he noticed some young players getting dressed to leave for the day. When those players saw Pujols and Molina heading to the batting cage, Wainwright said, they changed into exercise clothes and got together.

Pujols can offer intangible help like that, through his guidance and example. But he did not sign up to be ambassador. Pujols returns with purpose.

“Whenever Albert is motivated,” Wainwright said, “it’s a very dangerous thing.”

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