Thursday, December 8, 2011
Cardinals will survive loss of Pujols
By David Schoenfield
St. Louis Cardinals fans must feel like that dude in the second "Indiana Jones" movie who gets his heart ripped out of his chest.
It's a feeling you can't describe. You spend 11 years rooting for a player, cheering home runs, spending your paycheck on tickets, sitting at home on Friday night because the Cardinals have a big game. He comes out of nowhere as a rookie, straight from Class A ball, and tears up the league, a hitter sculpted by Michelangelo. He becomes the best player in the sport, hits that home run off Brad Lidge that lands on Jupiter, leads the club to a World Series title, wins MVP awards, accolades and then another World Series title.
Ruth. Mays. Bonds. Aaron.
Albert Pujols is right up there with legends who only need a last name. Legends don't leave. They stay and get standing ovations and wave tearful goodbyes after their bodies and skills decay and start betraying them.
They get statues built. They don't discuss contracts with the Miami Marlins -- the Marlins! -- and they don't sign contracts with the Los Angeles Angels.
Even when Pujols came close to going to the Marlins, it never seemed real. You can't leave the Cardinals for the Marlins, right?
When that deal fell apart, it seemed like a return home would be inevitable. Pujols would be back in St. Louis where he belongs, bashing home runs and driving in runs.
And then the mystery team. Your heart ripped out.
I can relate. As a Mariners fan, we lost Randy Johnson in 1998. And then Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. Three all-time greats in three years.
Griffey hurt the most. He had grown up with the Mariners, a kid in the majors at 19. But he had asked for a trade and we knew it would eventually happen. A-Rod was A-Rod. We knew he was going to leave, take the money and become the greatest player of all time. He got the money but fell short on the second goal.
The Mariners won 116 games the year after Rodriguez left. Baseball, after all, is a team game. One player does not a team make.
The Cardinals will move on. They remain a good team with a sold rotation and plenty of good players. Fans will move on from Pujols and root for new stars -- David Freese and pitching phenom Shelby Miller and others to come.
Because, in the end, we don't cheer for stars. We cheer for our team.
Trust me, Cardinals fans: You will recover.
And Angels fans: Enjoy.