I am not an MIT graduate. Honestly, I am not that good at math. However, the comparison of Albert Pujols to the Stan “The Man” Musial is one of basic math that I even I can figure out. It is simple, 5 will never be greater than 6. Never. I have heard many say that Pujols never asked to be compared to Musial. This may be true. The comparisons are inevitable. They are going to take place and they always will. LeBron never asked to be compared to Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson never asked to be compared to Muhammad Ali, yet the comparisons are always there. It is unavoidable. When you are the best of your era or the best in your team or sport’s history people are going to size the players up. Everyone will walk away with their own opinions.
Up until the recent fall from the grace of Cardinal fans by Pujols, I think many of us felt that Musial was the “Perfect Warrior”. But, we also believed that when the final out was made and the final inning played, El Hombre would probably edge the bets. This was many of our honest feelings until the magic carpet was yanked out from underneath our feet.
The statistics of these two greats are undeniable. The numbers speak for themselves and Albert isn’t done yet. I think we all dreamed about the day the Musial statue would not stand alone at the entrance to Baseball Heaven. It would have a rightful companion to tower beside him, a statue of Pujols. We would proudly walk by them and talk about how of two of the game’s greatest had been lifelong Cardinals. We reminisce of all of their accomplishments on and off the field. We would boast to the rest of the baseball world how they were ours.
That dream was shattered when Albert decided the green of the Angels far outweighed the red of Cardinal Nation. Many will say that we are just bitter. We are. Albert was ours; we didn’t want to share him. It was not supposed to be this way. We believed the love affair we had for Pujols was a two way relationship. He made us feel that way. It seemed there was going to be another Musial like Cardinal that openly expressed his love for St. Louis and its fans. One that made sure the Birds on the Bat were always represented with the highest esteem. He was going to be the Musial of our time. Because we felt that way the comparisons were always made.
I think back to the photo shoot that featured Musial and Pujols, I remember thinking there they are, the two greatest Cardinals to have ever played the game. I often asked my father who has been a Cardinal fan for over 60 years, was Musial as exciting as Pujols? How did they compare? His reply, “Pujols is great but Stan is “the Man”.
Cardinal fans have always prided themselves as being baseball’s greatest fans. There are many times it has been more about the player than the stats. It was who the player “was” and how they carried themselves. Albert took the payday. He traded his legacy for the cash. He can say that it wasn’t about the money and that LA offered a better family feel. I find the second part of the almost as laughable as the first. There are many people that move from the Midwest to Los Angeles, because nothing screams “raise your family here” like LA.
I understand this is today’s sports world and Musial never had the chance for free agency. In 1946, when Musial returned from his time in the military (putting his baseball career on hold to serve his country) he had an offer to go the newly formed Mexican league for over $180,000. He was only making $13,500 with the Cardinals. He stayed here. After his playing days were over he stayed here. He has been here much longer than the personal services contract offered to Pujols. Pujols would have had the opportunity to work inside the organization until the day he died if wanted. Instead, he sold out. That is why 5 will never be greater than 6.