David Freese and Albert Pujols played a tremendously important role in the most recent World Championship captured by the St. Louis Cardinals. Less than two years later, they are employed elsewhere, but together again and still in the news.
Instead, he accepted a huge, 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels that includes a personal services contract after his retirement as an active player. Perceived sour remarks made by Pujols and his wife as they left town turned the sentiment of many St. Louis fans against them.
After cementing his name in team lore for his 2011 post-season and especially World Series heroics, Freese soldiered on for two more uneven seasons with his hometown club before being traded to those same Angels this past winter.
Gracious about the Cardinals and complimentary of his new team and teammates, Freese has handled the career jolt publicly as well as anyone could expect. Not turning his back on his former club, the third baseman requested uniform number six with the Halos in a move to honor the late Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial.
“It’s obviously something that crossed my mind, being a Cardinal and being around Stan,” Freese told MLB.com. “It’s just an honor to kind of wear his number. I don’t think I look at it and not think about him for sure.”
Having headed west with a two-year head start on Freese, Pujols is now 34 years of age and coming off two below-par seasons – the worst of his career. With eight years remaining on his Angels contract, there is plenty of time for Pujols to improve.
It is seemingly all dependent on his health. Pujols has been putting in the work to try to convince his body – and fans – that he has plenty left in the tank.
Pujols still has one important tool in his kit, that perceived slight he often seemed to use effectively earlier in his career as motivation despite already being the best player in the game.
“I’m still in my prime. If I’m healthy, I’m going to show that on the field and shut a lot of mouths,” the first baseman told USA TODAY Sports.
One could see how the Angels’ 2014 hopes may hinge on a return to past form by the two ex-Cardinals.