I could feel my son’s pain in each word of his text:
“I feel like my childhood left for 50 million more dollars. Pujols was supposed to be different. Still I don’t hate Albert. I can’t.”
The boy – the young man – is now 20 years old and a business major in college. He knew it was more than remotely possible that his favorite St. Louis Cardinal, his favorite athlete of all time, and the best hitter in the game, Albert Pujols, would sign somewhere for more money and years than the St. Louis Cardinals were willing to pay.
On Thursday, word came down that Pujols had signed for a reported $250 million-plus, 10 years, and a no-trade provision, with the Los Angeles Angels not of Anaheim and definitely not of my son’s childhood. The Cardinals, apparently, were about $50 million short. So now it’s what, Prince Albert of Disneyland?
When I next see my son, I half-expect to see a few new lines on his face and a first gray hair on his head. He understands sports plenty well, even writes about them for his school paper, but this was personal and it stole a last remaining bit of his innocence.
Winning the World Series in 2011 did not make Pujols nostalgic for what is supposedly – probably – the best baseball city in America. Having Cardinal fans’ fawning adoration didn’t sway him.
A few years ago I told my son something to this effect: Any time you get in a situation and things turn and go in a direction you didn’t expect, especially if somebody you thought you knew does something seemingly out of character, follow the money trail.
It was a terribly cynical thing to say.
And right on the money, once again.