Apparently when you are a highly-paid athlete and hire an agent to go out and negotiate multi-million dollar deals on your behalf, that doesn't include a public-relations person to coach you on what to say in the aftermath. So, since Albert Pujols obviously didn't have the benefit of that expertise, let's give a little thought to what he should have said Saturday in Anaheim. You know, instead of the poorly-worded, childish and asinine spew to which everyone was treated. Did he/they not know that this event would be seen in St. Louis? It didn't seem so. Even a poor PR person would have prepared a few remarks for him to start off with, and then coached him on the responses to some of the questions he most certainly would have faced. The adviser wouldn't have been able to anticipate the actual questions, but a well-constructed set of remarks would have set the tone. So...here we go with what Albert should have said, but didn't.
"Thank you to Mr. Moreno and the Angels management for putting together this amazing contract for me and my family. I am very excited at the opportunity and look forward to this new chapter in my life and career. But before I say anything else, I'd like to thank the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans for supporting me for the last 11 years. It was an amazing run. Cardinals fans are everything you've heard about. They are passionate about baseball, amazingly loyal to the team and its players, and they have shown me more love than anyone could expect. I am happy to have been part of two World Championship Cardinals teams and will always cherish those memories. Cardinals fans...I love you and will miss you more than I can say. I only hope that while I play here in Anaheim, I will be able to enjoy the same type of fan base and loyalty that I enjoyed in St. Louis. Cardinal fans will remember that I have said many times that I wanted to play my whole career in St. Louis and that money wasn't the issue. I wish now I hadn't said those words as often as I did. Please forgive me for giving the impression that this wouldn't come down to a business decision. It did. And it was. I'm sorry, but it's true. In fact, I feel that the major reason I am standing here today is because the Cardinals, even though they tried very hard, just couldn't compete with the package that the Angels offered. As you know, the end of my contract with the Cardinals represented the only real opportunity at free agency that I will have in my career. The Angels were in a position to blow me away with their offer. Unfortunately, the Cardinals deal with a different financial reality in St. Louis, and couldn't. There were other, less important factors in my decision, but in the end, I decided to move to Southern California to play the rest of my career for the Angels and take the best offer that we received. I immediately felt comfortable with Angels ownership and management and look forward to being the best player I can for them and for Angels fans. At the end of this process though, I am both very happy for my family, and very sad that I was compelled to leave the only city I have ever played in behind."
What would have been wrong with a little honesty like that? This certainly would have gone a long way to clear the air in St. Louis, and the Angels management and fans would have understood. They aren't stupid. The Angels would have seen that the press conference/pep rally represented both an end and a beginning for Albert. As it turned out, it also was a totally blown opportunity for him to be seen as a universally-loved athlete in the mold of Stan Musial, Tony Gwynn, Kurt Warner, Cal Ripken and a few others. Some carefully-chosen words (whether he meant them or not) would have eliminated most of the bitterness that Cardinal Nation feels today. All of the "God told me to"...and "I prayed on it"...and "I felt more wanted" stuff is unbelievable and inexcusable, and only sets him up as an unlikable figure in St. Louis. For a sometimes painfully-obvious man of God, Albert doesn't seem to get that his words are products of the same entity, one that he did not honor by stumbling through his unprepared and uncomfortable minutes before the camera. He certainly didn't do justice to God's Golden Rule. If he were a Cardinal fan I wonder what he would have expected from the person who stepped up to the microphone? I suppose that didn't enter his mind. Did he genuinely not feel any emotion toward the people in St. Louis? Or was he just a very rich, but unprepared speaker?
Albert, without realizing the golden opportunity presented to him Saturday, seized it to look stupid and ungrateful. Unfortunately, Cardinal fans now likely will never forgive him for that.