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By Seth Livingstone, USA TODAY

In aninterview with KNBR Radio in San Francisco, former St. Louis manager Tony La Russa says that, in the end, the Cardinals simply could not afford to keep Albert Pujols, even though Pujols offered a significant hometown discount.

The Los Angeles Angels signed the three-time NL MVP to a guaranteed $254 million contract for 10 years.

"I know it is true ," La Russa said. "Albert was ready to give the Cardinals a tremendous and significant home discount. I am talking about signing for something like $60 or $65 million less than he signed for.

"That's a lot of money he would have walked away from, but even at that level the Cardinals could not have swung it."

La Russa, who retired after the season, says Pujols never let him down as a player, calling him "absolutely as close to perfect as you could expect a player to be for 11 years." He said Pujols was always engrossed in the game an displayed an enthusiasm that could not be faked.

Pujols' former manager understands the St. Louis fans feeling jilted, but doesn't believe they should -- or will -- boo Pujols when he eventually returns there to play.

Among the things La Russa had to say:

"I think the Angels came in and swooped him up. I just think the Cardinals understood they couldn't afford him. Sometimes you gotta make that kind of decision. ...

"The fans were really upset with him. There's still a lot of negativity to it.... (Pujols) made a P.R. mistake when he said it wasn't about the money because you can't say that. ...

"This guy is a golden person on-and-off the field. I was never disappointed by him. ... Like I told the Cardinals fans, pull for him unless he is playing your team in the World Series. Then pull against him. Other than that pull for him."

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