WHAT OTHERS SAY: Adios, Mr. Pujols. Thanks for the memories

Friday, December 9, 2011 | 4:45 p.m. CST

It's not just that Albert Pujols won't be the next Stan Musial. He won't even be the next Tim Salmon.

Tim Salmon spent 14 years in the Major Leagues before retiring after the 2006 season. In most fan polls, he is regarded as the greatest player in the history of the oft-renamed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, mostly because he spent his entire career wearing the halo.

A rifle-armed right fielder, "Mr. Angel" collected 1,674 base hits and was a career .282 hitter. He fell just one dinger short of reaching the slightly coveted 300-homer club. He is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year, but he won't be needing a hotel reservation in Cooperstown, N.Y., anytime soon.

Tim Salmon was a fine ballplayer. But he was no Stan Musial. Albert Pujols could have been, and he often said that was his goal — to spend his entire career in a Cardinals uniform and retire as a civic treasure.

Being a civic treasure is great, but other kinds of treasure aren't bad. On Thursday, Mr. Pujols listened and what he heard was "Cha-ching."

Hearts were broken all over town.

The Angels will pay him $254 million over 10 years, roughly $44 million more than the Cardinals offered, and $44 million is not to be sneezed at. Nor are the weather and beachfront real estate south of Los Angeles, nor is the comforting possibility of spending his declining years as a designated hitter in the American League.

Albert Pujols gave St. Louis 11 glorious years, maybe the best first 11 years any player has ever given any team. He helped the Cardinals to three World Series and two World Championships. He was a solid citizen in the community, a man about whom there was never a whiff of scandal.

He went about his business with an almost preternatural intensity. He could be prickly; he knew how good he was, and insisted on a certain deference. Over the last year or so, as his contract moved toward expiration, it became clear that he needed the affirmation of maximum compensation for his skills.

The Cardinals made an offer to him that was more than fair. He wanted more. He got it. So be it.

Let it be said that Albert Pujols leaves St. Louis owing the fans and the city nothing. The ledger is clean. He never gave less than full effort, never demanded anything from anyone that he did not demand of himself.

Now he joins the ranks of great players like Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew who passed through Anaheim Stadium on their way to Cooperstown.

That Mr. Pujols chose to become yet another of baseball's itinerant millionaires is no disgrace. Who among us would turn our backs on $44 million? He and his wife, Deidre, can do a lot of good for a lot of people with an extra $44 million, and probably will.

So adiós, Albert. Thanks for the memories. When you walk through the gates of the Big A, look up at the giant picture of Tim Salmon and remember the good times.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

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John Schmidt December 10, 2011 | 2:33 p.m.

Ohh... A lot of envious people are going to be really really mad at you for saying that.

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