It has been eight seasons since Albert Pujols left the Cardinals, after an almost unparalleled first 11 years a major-leaguer ever has had.
He signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels less than two months after helping the Redbirds win the 2011 World Series, angering many Cards fans who thought he went for the money after saying it wasn’t about the money.
Pujols insists that was not the case in an interview with St. Louisan Graham Bensinger that aired nationally over the weekend on his syndicated “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” television show. (Locally on KTVI, Channel 2.)
“It took a while. I’m glad I get this opportunity to clarify, because the fans in St. Louis think that it’s all about the money,” he tells Bensinger in a conversation taped during spring training. “If you do the math, I came to California and I’m going to make less money than if I would’ve stayed with the Cardinals because of tax (rates) and everything. I had another team (the Marlins) that was offering me a lot. A big, big contract. I didn’t want to go, that wasn’t in my heart.”
He soon thereafter took the Angels offer because he said he thought he was more appreciated by that club’s ownership than that of the Cardinals.
“I felt that the approach that they took wasn’t showing me that they wanted me to be a long-time Cardinal,” he says, referring to contract terms.
“I believe I made the right decision,” he adds.
Pujols says he “got frustrated. The last thing that — which I would never do for anybody — is getting on my knee and begging them. I wasn’t going to do that. I don’t want to humiliate myself like that.”
Team owner Bill DeWitt Jr. is asked about the matter.
“We made a robust offer,” he says. “To have an iconic player like that be a lifetime Cardinal would have been really special. But at some point you can only do so much.”
Pujols acknowledges it was painful to leave.
“Oh yeah, I don’t want to lie to you, it was,” he says. “Half of your life pretty much you’re in that city. The fans. Your dream is to try to only finish in one uniform and be the (Yankees’) Derek Jeter. But you know what, man? This game has changed.”
Pujols is asked about negative comments his wife, Deidre, made about the situation at the time of the departure — remarks that riled some fans.
“She was really upset because she really, just like me, wanted to be in St. Louis,” Pujols says. “I know people got mad in St. Louis. Just like every wife, they’re going to defend their husband.”
Pujols now seems to have put those feelings behind. He still has ties to the community, and his involvement in his foundation’s local basketball event for children with Down syndrome is included in the piece.
“It’s truly charity at its essence when you start seeing what he’s trying to do without anybody watching,” former Cardinals teammate Mike Matheny says.
And Pujols says he’s looking forward to finally playing in St. Louis for the first time since leaving, when the Angels are in town June 21-23.
“It’s hard, but I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some tears,” he says. “It’s going to be a really emotional weekend. You can’t ignore it — the greatness that happened in that stadium. You can’t ignore the success. I’m excited about going back and playing in front of probably the best city to play this game of baseball — best fans.”
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
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