The Machine has Malfunctioned

Albert Pujols may have made the worst decision of his career.


For the last 10 years, Albert Pujols has been cranking out top ten numbers in every offensive category, churning out three MVPs, six Silver Sluggers, and nine All-Star game selections—production that has earned him the nickname The Machine.

Well, for the first time, The Machine has malfunctioned.

On Dec. 8, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim inked Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal, making him only the second player ever to sign a $200 million contract and thereby instating him as the second-highest paid baseball player in history.

Another sellout athlete? There’s a surprise.

Instead of staying in St. Louis with the Cardinals—the team that raised him from the ground up, the team that he broke onto the scene with in 2001 and hasn’t looked back since—he took an offer halfway across the country. For what?

I’ll admit, $254 million is a nice salary to look at for the next 10 years. But the Cardinals’ offer of nine years and nearly $200 million should have looked a lot better to him. It’s only a year chopped off the end, meaning the contract would expire when he’s 40 as opposed to 41. But the bonus year is obviously not the biggest deciding factor.

The biggest cog in Pujols’ decision had to have been the extra $54 million because, frankly, that’s a ton of coin. Nonetheless, it’s worth a lot more to carry on a legacy in St. Louis.

Now I’m not saying it’s a matter of his disloyalty. There are players who have played for double-digit teams throughout their tenure, namely Gary Sheffield or Mike Morgan, who have gone on to have wonderfully impressive careers—two years ago Sheffield hit his 500th homerun on his eighth big league team.

However, I’m sure these players would have loved to have the chance to be a franchise player. They would have killed for an eternal spot in the hearts, on the walls, and in the memories of one team’s adoring fans. Most players who hit 500 homeruns in their career are viewed as legendary. Gary Sheffield is viewed by today’s fans as a novelty.

Albert Pujols is not to blame for wanting to relocate. As much as I want to, and as stubborn as I am about change in baseball, I can’t bring myself to blame him on those grounds. However, I have no problem blaming him for trading a potential legacy for $54 million. When he would be making $200 million anyway, a legacy is far too valuable to trade for money.

That said, I have no doubt that Pujols will have a tremendous last 10 years; they’ll probably be Hall-of-Fame-worthy. I figure after this contract dries up and Pujols retires, the back of his baseball card won’t look so bad. At the end of the day, he’ll only play for two teams and he’ll have accrued 10 years with each. Good, but not great.

The Machine is going to keep producing, and I guess, practically speaking, that’s what matters in baseball—the numbers. I can’t argue with numbers. But the man inside The Machine—the 21-year-old rookie phenom from 2001 who broke onto the scene as nice a guy as he was a ballplayer—is what matters most.

The contract is attributed to a number. A legacy is priceless.

In Cardinals history, Stan Musial will always be known as a man: Stan the Man.

Albert Pujols will be remembered as a machine.