Ever since the 2011 baseball season started, the St. Louis Cardinals fan base, team, and players have been anxiously waiting for the end of this season, and the beginning of contract negotiations with baseball’s most coveted player, Albert Pujols.
The Cards never had a good lead in the NL Central division this year; everyone thought their division rivals, the Brewers, were headed to the World Series. In the beginning of August, St. Louis looked like they’d be watching the playoffs from Chris Carpenter’s basement, but they pulled off an improbable run to make the postseason. They got help from the Phillies in the last week of the season when the Braves had to be beaten so that the door would be opened for them. And then the next week they took down Philadelphia in the NLDS, and then Milwaukee to win the League Championship, and suddenly their chances had gone from improbable to almost impossible to eerily possible to four wins away from a World Series title.
Game three of the World Series was the only match where Pujols showed his “monster” self. He hit three home runs to go along with five hits and six RBI. Other than that, he was just part of the resilient St. Louis team that came back to win game six and take game seven to win their 11th World Series championship.
If he doesn’t decide to re-sign with the Cardinals immediately after negotiations resume, Pujols will test the free agent market. That’s where the Marlins come in. The (soon-to-be) Miami Marlins have been advertising their anticipated high payroll in 2012, and are likely contenders in the Pujols sweepstakes. The Cardinals will play the Marlins on Opening Day (April 4th) at the new Marlins ballpark, and I don’t think Pujols will want to receive his World Series ring in Miami with the Cardinals visiting. I don’t think he will want to receive his ring anywhere besides St. Louis. After all the Cardinals went through as a team these last three months, I think the future Hall of Famer will be drawn back to St. Louis.
Pujols may or may not have alluded to his future with the team following the Game 7 win:
“Just thank God that every day…I come here wearing this uniform and try to help…”
He later declined to answer when asked about free agency and his future with the team. In the same post game interview he spoke nostalgically of the Cardinals team.
It’s hard to decipher, so I won’t make assumptions about Pujols’ future, but I’ll say that unless I had something extremely strong against a team with which I’ve spent 10 years and won two World Championships, I would want to stay with them for at least the year after such a dramatic World Series victory. But we are left wondering if Albert Pujols taken off a Cardinals jersey for the last time?