Feb 26, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols heads to the field after participating in photo day at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Tooley-USA TODAY Sports

Albert Pujols – Forever a Cardinal

It’s hard to believe that Albert Pujols has not been a member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization since late 2011.  It’s even harder to believe that Pujols, one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball and the face of the franchise for over a decade, will never be a part of a St. Louis Cardinals World Championship ever again.  The pain still lingers in the hearts of Cardinal fans around the world for his decision to leave the team, but we should never forget what he did for the organization.

Somehow, Pujols was not drafted until the 13th round of the 1996 MLB draft.  When he broke into the league as a twenty-one year old rookie in 2001, I was an eleven-year-old boy just starting to fall in love with baseball. Pujols went on to have the greatest rookie season for any player this generation.  For the next decade, Pujols built a legacy in St. Louis that included two World Series Championships, three national league MVP’s, and nine all-star game appearances – not bad for a guy who was considered too slow and overweight to ever make it in the big leagues.

Widely considered the best baseball city in America, it’s not easy to be mentioned as one of the franchise’s all time greats in St. Louis. Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, and Bob Gibson are just a few of the legends that have wore the Cardinal red over the years.  Pujols not only deserves to be mentioned with these greats – arguably,  he deserves to be acknowledged as the greatest Cardinal of all time.

I can remember seeing Pujols for the first time at Fenway Park in 2003.  Late in that game, Pujols hit a rocket off Pedro Martinez on a 3-0 fastball into the right field bullpen.  The Red Sox fans around me were wondering who this Pujols kid was, but not me, I was well aware. A few years later (2005), the Cardinals were one out away from their season ending in bitter disappointment to the Houston Astros in the NLCS.  Brad Lidge, the most dominant closer in the game at the time, was on the mound, and the baseball world was all but crowning the Astros NL champs already.  What happened next may always be the most exciting moment I will ever experience as a baseball fan, when Pujols took the nasty lidge slider and sent it deep into left field over the railroad tracks in Houston (I’m still not sure the ball ever landed).  From that day on, nobody ever questioned how great Pujols was – relive the moment below:

The St. Louis Cardinals were crowned 2011 World Series Champions, and life seemingly couldn’t get better for the organization and their fans.  However, heartbreak occurred shortly thereafter, when Pujols decided to leave the Cardinals for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  It may have been about the money, it may have been because his mentor and manager for over a decade Tony La Russa retired, or it may have been conflict with the ownership – that we will never know.  What I do know, however, is that Pujols will always be a Cardinal in my eyes.

Here’s to a great 2014 season for Albert Pujols – Cardinal Nation will be rooting for you.

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  • James William Smith Sr.

    Disagree. MAYBE top 5 Cardinal. There have been way too many Cardinals who did it way longer and in the clutch. Leaving for the money (obviously the reason) just adds to it.

  • Chris Tarrants

    Pujols sold his legacy! He would have been the greatest cardinal of all time but he lost that right. That spot where his statue would have been will now be nothing more than another trash can. By my math you were born in 1990? That means that you missed a lot of great cardinals that played their hearts out but never sold out. Leaving is one thing but the way it happened I can’t swallow. IMO he is below Hard hittin Mark Witten, Brian Jordan, Ray Lankford, Ozzie Smith, Mark McGuire, Lee Smith, Stan the Man, the list could go on and on. These guys never put up the same numbers but they never sold out!

    • thomas gibson

      lol chris im a diehard cards fan but pujols is way better than mark whitten and ray lank ford..you forgot bob gibson, willie mcgee, keith hernandez, and the maybe even cesar cedeno he had more important hits than lankford even though he was only around for a cool drink of water

  • Paul R

    Are you kidding? Stan Musial is the greatest Cardinal of all time! When Albert said it wasn’t about the money I lost ALL respect for him. I don’t blame players to get more money but don’t say what Albert said! His wife said they were disrespected for the $200 million dollar offer !! He said it wasn’t about the money!!! If he had stayed then yes he would be in the discussion but absolutely not the greatest Cardinal of all time. Had he stayed for the $200 million and played for World Series championships instead of going for the money he would have been the greatest of all time.

  • PitchersHitEighth

    No lingering pain here, and let’s not discount the role that the Cardinals’ front office played in not capitulating to Pujols’ lofty demands. If Albert wanted to leave, they weren’t stopping him, not at the price he commanded.

    Loved watching Pujols, still a small part wishes he would’ve stayed (at a MUCH smaller price tag), will always be thankful for what he meant to the Cardinals during his time in St. Louis – not to mention his charitable contributions, which still continue in the area.

    But “Greatest Cardinal of All Time?” – Pujols is FAR from the top rung on that ladder.

  • Ryan Smith

    Responding to the comments, I said Pujols ARGUBALY deserves to be considered the greatest. Whether you have him near the top or not, it’s crazy to leave him out of the top 5. People are so quick to forget of everything that he accomplished in the city. How many guys have 2 World Championships, 3 MVP’s, and 9 all star game selections? Pujols broke so many records in Major League Baseball, not just Cardinal records.

    • N. Mason

      This article is a horrible representation of what anyone in St. Louis thinks. I have never heard anyone say this type of stuff about Pujols after he left. To compare him to people like Stan Musial who played his career in St. Louis, stayed in St. Louis aftewards, continued to support the team after his career, is completely unjust.

      I am not sure if you missed it or not, but we just had our own Cardinals Hall of Fame voting. Pujols wasn’t even considered. Pujols will alaways be a Cardinal? What in the world are you thinking? “The pain still lingres for his decision to leave the team? There is no pain…just look at the team now. It would be completely different if we were paying 30mm/year for Pujols. It wasn’t Pujols decision to leave, it was managements decision to not waste away money for his disgusting requests.
      Please pull this article. It makes us fans look bad!

  • Art Vandalay

    I strongly disagree with this post. Was Pujols the Greatest Cardinal of the last 10 years? Absolutely. Last 20 years? Probably. Last 30 years? That’s when it gets foggy…that is when Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith and Bruce Sutter come in to the equation. Even Jim Edmonds could be considered a great. And Yadi is well on his way to being one of the greats. Certainly Pujols does not “deserve to be acknowledged as the greatest Cardinal of all time.” I agree he could be mentioned with the greats (Ozzie, Gibson, Musial, Brock, Hornsby, Dean, Slaughter, etc). Had he stayed in St. Louis his entire career (even though his numbers are dropping dramatically), then this article could be more accurate. Yes he was the face of the franchise and accomplished a great deal. But there are more than just numbers involved in Cardinal Nation when it comes to proclaiming the greatest ever. And to answer your question about how many guys have 2 World Championships, 3 MVP’s, and 9 all star game selections…Musial had 3 World Championships, 3 MVP’s, and 24 All Star game selections (granted they used to have 2 all stay games per year). He also has 7 NL batting championships compared to Albert’s 1.

  • Paul R

    Ryan, you said deserves to be the greatest of all time! You are way to young to even make this outlandish statement.. Just look at the comparison to Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, etc. not even close.