Griffith: Congrats, Albert! Cardinal fans salute you

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In the winter of 2011, for the first time in my life, I hated someone.

As a Cardinals fan, it was my duty to hate that man. After leading the Redbirds to the franchise’s 11th World Championship, El Hombre, Albert Pujols galloped out of the Gateway City for greener pastures in Anaheim.

I took for granted the 11 years of memories this one man had afforded me the luxury of making and replaced them, like many St Louis faithful, with animosity for him. How could a man we all loved, almost to the status of a demi-god, forsake all that we had built in our relationship with each other? How could he just divorce us so easily and marry a whole new set of fans just because they had more money?

Did he really think thanking us with an ad in the Post-Dispatch would make it hurt less? Didn’t he realize we needed him?

In 2011, Pujols hit .299 with only 99 RBI for the Cardinals. It was the first time in his career he hit under .300 and had less than 100 RBI. So when he left, Cardinal fans tried to justify his departure by convincing ourselves that the decline was imminent, if it had not already begun.

In 2012, Pujols had an even more subpar year (by his standards). He batted only .285, but still managed to hit 30 homeruns and 100 RBI. The batting average was all Cardinal fans focused on  while reassuring ourselves that we let him go at the perfect time.

Hobbled by injury in 2013, Pujols managed only .258 with 17 homeruns and 64 RBI, further proving to Cardinal fans that the team made the right decision.

A healthy Pujols in 2014 has so far, shattered the glass house Cardinal fans have built around our hearts. In 20 games this year, Pujols has 19 RBI, five doubles and eight homeruns; none bigger than the two home runs he hit Tuesday night against the Nationals.

Homerun No. 7 was also No. 499 for his career, and No. 500 came just a few innings later.

Suddenly, Pujols is now in elite company (as if that has ever been a real question regarding Pujols). There are only 25 other players in the 500 homer club and Pujols is the third youngest player to reach the milestone. According to teammate Mike Trout, Pujols predicted before the game that he was going to hit two home runs, and Pujols has always been a man of his word. It’s just too bad he didn’t make the prediction to a sick kid so we could have the same type of folk lore we have with Babe Ruth.

After I heard the news of Pujols’ 500th homerun, all my negativity towards him disappeared. I was overcome with joy for the man that I had placed on a pedestal for 11 years. Suddenly, I remembered the 455 homeruns that I and millions of Cardinals fans got to be a part of over the course of 11 years.

I remembered the six division titles, three trips to the World Series, and the two World Series titles Pujols led us to.

I remembered that Pujols and his family gave, and continue to give to the people of St. Louis through their charity, the Pujols Family Foundation. I remembered the unique bond Cardinal Nation had with Albert and, for a moment, I felt that spark rekindled.

For 11 magnificent years, we were selfish with Albert. He was “our guy.” The truth is, his talents belong to everyone. The baseball community deserves to share in the gift that Albert has given to us all.

Albert Pujols is the greatest living player and anyone who loves baseball should love Albert, even if we were hurt in the past. Similar to divorce, the pain subsides, and we can even learn to love again.

For me, my love for the transcendent player known as Albert Pujols was reborn last night with homerun No. 500. Even though we will never have the same relationship we once had, Albert will always hold a special place in the hearts of Cardinals fans. No matter how much we try to deny it.

Congratulations No. 5! Cheers to homerun No. 500 and the start of chasing No. 600!

About the Author
Steve spends his time here at The Peorian analyzing data and networking to develop solutions to bridge the gap between…no wait, that’s what he does as a career. He’s here at The Peorian to write about other things. And in order to facilitate these efforts, we have banned him from using any forms of the words “data”, “engineering” and “antidisestablishmentarianism”. The latter should be for obvious reasons. I mean, really, how could anyone be FOR the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in 19th-century Britain?