ST. LOUIS — 2020 may stink, but Albert Pujols hitting majestic home runs sure isn't a bad sight. I doubt it'll ever be.
Pujols smashed a pitch on Sunday with the bases loaded high into the stands off the Houston Astros. For Cardinals fans, Pujols hitting lethal homers off Houston pitchers brings back good memories. Just ask Brad Lidge, who looked like Pujols stole all his Halloween candy one October evening 15 years ago.
Many Cardinals fans still think about the idea of Pujols coming home when the time comes. Some baseball players disappear into a cornfield; Pujols would get to drift away into a sea of red. Sunday night, a good follow of mine named Justin put out that dream-like idea, and I had to stop and think about it.
Now, I don't think Pujols will play that long, but then again, Julio Franco did, and Pujols is a lot better. It'd be nothing short of a Pujols highlight reel to see him play for another few years at least. Pujols' entire career has been outlined in incredible ink. From the burst onto the scene, to the MVPs, to the World Series titles to holding onto the home run stroke at an older age. The wine isn't getting better with age; it's simply still a good drink.
To be honest, when the designated hitter was announced as universal in 2020, the first thing I thought about was Pujols back in St. Louis. That and the idea of Nolan Arenado coming to town, but the number 5 thought was already there. This would be making a wrong right. Please save me your Cardinal or Pujols hate parade.
The Cardinals LONG said they want to make him a Cardinal for life. You don't do that with a five year offer. Pujols was mad and never looked back. When that offer was put out there to one of the best hitters at the moment and all time, St. Louis lost Albert. That was it. While they offered more years and money later, the finality was sealed. Pujols didn't chase the bigger deal, not if you look at California taxes. He went to the place where he was wanted.
The Cardinals and Pujols could make that right. His contract is up at the end the 2021 season. Now, there is a ten-year services contract with the Angels, but maybe that can be amended or moved to the side. If Pujols wants to keep playing and Los Angeles doesn't want to continue that part of the deal, they could say the services contract can start after he retires or simply take it away. In the end, Pujols will do what he wants or get his way. Legends can do that. That was more than likely icing on the cake of that contract.
I can't believe it's been nearly ten years since Pujols left. Time can fly when you're having fun, or adulting. Years and months move like zip trains across the decade, leaving you in an extended trance wondering where the days moved to. Pujols isn't who he used to be at the plate, but neither are the Cardinals.
Pujols is proving this year that he has still got it, and that is good for the game. Older lions with some bite left only heightens the nostalgia of this glorious game. It grounds baseball in a permanent place of good.
He is now two long balls away from tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. Imagine that. #5 sitting at #5. When you think about it, Pujols' story is cinematic in all the best ways. The underdog beginning, the humble rise to power, the greatness, and the waning years that still featured big moments.
600 home runs puts you in the legends club. Pujols has a shot at 700, which would move you closer to the immortal area of Cooperstown. If he had the chance to do that in Cardinal Red, you couldn't sell enough tickets. Broadway, Clark, and Market street would be sold out. Packed with red and begging for a nostalgic kick. St. Louis would shine like a baseball heaven beacon from space.
Pardon me if I think about that instead of telling you about the latest delay, positive test, or rumored reason behind the Cardinals' current predicament. I'd rather think about Pujols coming home and saving the day. He wouldn't give you too many WAR, but you couldn't deny the entertainment value and importance to the city.
2020 has stunk for the most part. Nothing has gone as planned and a lot of things fell apart. The one thing it hasn't diminished is Albert Pujols serving up destruction on baseballs. We still have that. I'll take it.
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