'The Decision' of Albert Pujols

Updated: December 6, 2011, 10:32 AM ET
By Buster Olney

Anyone who played Batman and Robin with a friend as a kid will know why it's so very important to get this question answered: If Albert Pujols takes his talents to South Beach, joining Heath Bell and Jose Reyes, is he the LeBron James of the trio?

Bell carries less star power than the other two, so he's the Chris Bosh. But is Reyes or Pujols the LeBron James, and which of the two is the Dwyane Wade?

The big knock on James is that he's never won a championship, and Pujols has won two. On the other hand, Wade and Reyes are both speed guys and seem to match up in style, and with all due respect to Wade, James is the bigger star, no matter how much championship bling Wade has.

Without a doubt, Pujols is a bigger star than Reyes. Pujols may finish his career among the five or six greatest players of all time, ranked somewhere among Babe Ruth and Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds, and may soon have something else in common with all those players -- playing for more than one team in his career.

It's impossible to envision Pujols playing in a uniform other than that of the St. Louis Cardinals, least of all in the mismatched pajama look of the Miami Marlins. This is like a former president moving from the White House to the Playboy mansion.

But friends have been saying for months that Pujols is ready to leave the Cardinals, if it comes down to that, if the St. Louis offer is significantly less than that from another team. Somewhere along the way, this went from being personal for Pujols to being all about business. Maybe it was last winter, when the Cardinals offered him a contract that would have given him the fourth-highest salary among first basemen in the majors, a contract less than that of Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez. The Cardinals offered nine years, $198 million, or $22 million a year. For many years, Pujols had been playing under what was generally regarded as a very team-friendly contract, and maybe he expected the Cardinals to step up this time around and give him a deal that reflected his place in the game.