“It’s not about having special privileges,” he said. “It’s about the trust the manager has in me. . . . It’s something that didn’t go our way [in Game 5]. People can throw blame, but it’s a part of the game. We don’t let that game ruin the rest of the series.”
In St. Louis, as well as in the front offices of teams around the game, the great subtext of this World Series is Pujols’s upcoming free agency. If you thought Pujols has been at the center of every story in this series — from his critical error that helped the Cardinals lose Game 2, to his skipping out of the clubhouse without speaking to the media after the same game, to his historic offensive performance in Game 3, to his botched hit-and-run in Game 5 — wait until you start seeing the escalating, nine-figure dollar amounts floating around Pujols’s name in the coming weeks.
The Cardinals believe Pujols, deep down, wants to stay in St. Louis — where he stands behind only Stan Musial as a civic icon — although they think he also wants to see what the open market says. Already, he is believed to have turned down an offer from the Cardinals of nine years and somewhere around $200 million in February, at which point the sides shut down their talks.
The Cardinals also believe a World Series title, which would be Pujols’s second in St. Louis, would help in their efforts to keep him. There is a reason that, in all of baseball history, there isn’t a comparable player to Pujols, with multiple MVP awards and a championship title, who has walked away from a team where he has long roots while he is still a productive player.
“I’d like to think the team’s success has some bearing on” the player’s decision, Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said. “But it isn’t the only, or the biggest factor.”
Pujols, of course, has refused to discuss his free agency during this postseason or, except for a brief address with reporters at the start of spring training, all year. He is too focused on the task at hand, he has said, to think about such things.
But Thursday and Friday’s weather calls for dry (but cold and blustery) conditions, and there will be baseball played eventually, and then it will all come to an end. A big part of Pujols’s legacy will have been written, and another part will move out the shadows and into the light.