Albert Pujols Returning to St. Louis For One Final Season
Only seven players who have worn #5 on their baseball jersey have had their number retired. The man who will become the eighth is returning to where it all began. After 10 seasons away, Albert Pujols is coming back to the St. Louis Cardinals. The timing couldn't be more perfect.
Pujols has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with St. Louis that will pay him $2.5 million, pending Pujols passing a physical. The Cardinals will make that up in ticket sales by mid-week. You talk about a wise investment.
Why would Albert want to return to St. Louis? There's a very simple answer. To reunite as teammates with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. Best friends that began playing together at the big league level in 2004, Molina has already announced that this season will be his last. Molina has played 2,146 games in St. Louis over the last 18 seasons. While Pujols hasn't announced that 2022 will be his final season, the writing is on the wall.
June 23, 2019: Pujols and Molina exchange their jerseys after a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Molina gave Pujols his #4 Cardinals jersey while Pujols gave Molina his #5 Angels jersey.
Below was the scene when Pujols stepped to the plate for the first time in St. Louis, since his departure. It was June 21, 2019. While the crowd gave Pujols a standing ovation, Molina and Pujols shared a hug.
2022 will also likely be the final year for Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (with Molina below), who's won 184 games with St. Louis over the last 16 years. Together, the three make up quite a trifecta of talent.
August 11, 2021: Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright celebrate a complete game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pujols is one of the greatest players to ever wear a baseball jersey. Period. In his first three years in St. Louis, from 2001 to 2003, Pujols made $1.7 million. During that time, he hit 114 home runs, drove in 381 runs, and scored 367 times. Those three seasons have to be one of the best deals for ownership in the history of sports.
During his 11 years in St. Louis, Pujols was named National League MVP three times (2005, 2008, 2009) and helped the Cardinals capture two World Series titles (2006 and 2011). He hit .328 and clobbered 445 home runs during those 11 amazing seasons. This 2005 blast in the National League Championship Series was one of the most memorable round-trippers:
Sure, Pujols' numbers have waned since leaving St. Louis before the 2012 season, but bringing him back is a great move. The 42-year-old can be a coach when he's not on the field and from a fan standpoint? Let's just say we've missed him. And not just what he did on the field, but the man as well. So, where will Pujols play?
I expect Pujols to see spot duty at first base when Paul Goldschmidt needs a day off. He'll most certainly pinch-hit and spend time as the Cardinals designated hitter (DH), an everyday need in the National League this year for the first time. Pujols is more than capable of filling the role of the Cardinals right-handed hitting DH. He hit .294 with 13 home runs against left-handed pitchers in 2021. St. Louis also has left-handed hitting outfielder Corey Dickerson, who will likely see most of St. Louis' designated hitter at bats against right-handed pitchers.
I can wait to see the birds on the bat across the chest of Albert Pujols again.
2022 tickets for St. Louis Cardinals baseball are about to become a very hot commodity. Win or lose it's going to be a special season. When it finally does come to an end, I already know how I'm going to react. I'll have a box of tissues at the ready.