A passionate sports’ fan often follows their team with blind dedication, without judgment and undying fandom. This is the Angels 60th anniversary season and my 40th anniversary as an Angels’ fan. It’s due to this passion that one often forgets that sports are also a business. As such unpopular business decisions are made. As a fan I briefly forgot about that last week when the Angels released Albert Pujols from his 10 year contract.
I feel conflicted. Given all the Angels current injuries Albert Pujols services would have been beneficial to the team. On the other hand I understand the Angels decision to do so as they have young guns such as Jared Walsh and Shohei Ohtani. These are two players that I can think of specifically that need to be in the everyday lineup. Releasing Pujols allowed the Angels to proceed developing their young talent.
My brother and I mutually agreed back in 2011 that if the Angels did not win at least 4 to 5 World Series championships in 10 years, the Albert Pujols contract would be a failure. Pujols never lived up to his contract during his tenure with the Angels. There’s no humanly possible way any player no matter how great could have lived up to a $240 million contract. The release caught me off guard; after all we are talking about a future first ballot hall of famer. At the time of his release he was batting .125 and was no longer contributing to the team.
It took me a while to work through these feelings. Originally I was going to write about the end of his illustrious career and about his contribution to the game of baseball but this afternoon I found out that he had signed with the natural rivals, the Dodgers. This frankly perplexes me because all my baseball instincts told me he would sign with an American League team if he would sign a new contract at all. Why would Pujols ask for his release if he is stuck in a mere situation with the Dodgers? This doesn’t make sense to me. I understand his desire to play, but part of being a great player is knowing when your career is over. I don’t think Pujols has realized that. That inadvertently tarnishes his career.
He reminds me of Barry Bonds when he ended his contract with the San Francisco Giants. For about two years after his contract ended with the Giants, Bonds insisted he wasn’t retired and he was available to sign with another team. The Bonds situation mirrors what is happening with Pujols and I’m frankly surprised the Dodgers took a chance on him especially risking the defending champion chemistry that the Dodgers have.
Passion can be a double edged sword. It can invoke loyalty, but it can also invoke ignorance. I don’t think Albert Pujols is ready to admit that his best days are behind him. This is only natural since any given person in any given career often does not want to leave a career they have dedicated their life to and has made them so happy. One must be careful that the very passion that drives them does not become a detriment to the industry that one loves so much. I strongly believe that although The Machine has unequivocally contributed to the game of baseball, it’s time for The Machine to shut down.
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