Angels Release Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols is no longer a player in the Angels organization.

On Thursday morning, the club announced they had designated the 41-year-old for assignment, which will lead to a release from his contract.

“The Angels Organization proudly signed Albert Pujols in 2011, and are honored that he has worn an Angels jersey for nearly half of his Hall-of-Fame career,” Arte Moreno said in a statement released by the club. “Albert’s historical accomplishments, both on and off the field, serve as an inspiration to athletes everywhere, and his actions define what it means to be a true Superstar. Since his Rookie of the Year Season in 2001, Albert and his wife Deidre have generously given their time and resources to countless charities throughout the world. We are thankful to the entire Pujols Family.”

The future Hall-of-Famer could be given the title as the “Best Player in Baseball” during his years prior to the Angels, where he was on a historical pace, batting .328 with 445 home runs over 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. That star has dwindled though while donning an Angels uniform.

Battling injuries over the last half decade, Pujols noted just two weeks ago that he is “feeling healthy and feeling good” and believes he “could be hitting .350 with better luck.” However, the luck did not follow.

Entering the final season of his 10-year, $240 million contract, Pujols was hitting a mere .198 with a .622 OPS going into Wednesday night’s game against Tampa Bay. In a social media report from Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times: “Pujols was upset that he wasn’t in the lineup to face Rays bulk left-handed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough… and that the decision to bench him came from front office, not manager Joe Maddon.”

Maddon did state during a press conference on Thursday that there was “no tipping point” involved, and the conversation was in professional nature.

The decision of Pujols’ release came from the baseball operations department, accoridng to General Manager Perry Minasian, who wanted to see Jared Walsh play every day at first base, and Shohei Ohtani as a regular staple as the designated hitter.

“My expectation is to be in the lineup every day,” Pujols said during a Zoom conference with the media on April 28. “That’s what I train for. (The media’s) expectation was a little different because you are the writers and you like to make stories, but for me since day one I came to Spring Training I expect to play every day. I’m ready to go every day. Whenever my name is in the lineup, I will do whatever it takes to help this organization to win because at the end of the day this is not about me. This is about our organization.”

Following a conversation following Wednesday night’s game between Pujols, Minasian, and Team President John Carpino, the decision was made that Albert Pujols would no longer be a member of the organization.

“There’s never a right time for something like this,” Minasian said in a press conference on Thursday. “This is more about playing time and who we have. We have a young first baseman we feel really excited about in Jared Walsh. We want to see him playing first base every day and we have Shohei Ohtani at designated hitter. It’s more about opportunity. Albert is not a bench player. With respect to him, keeping him on the bench would not do him any good or the team any good.”

For the fifth consecutive season, Pujols saw his OPS+ below 100 – the mark of a league-average hitter for the advanced statistic. Over the span of those five seasons in his late 30’s, Pujols’ offense dwindled from a 123 OPS+ and average of 33 home runs and 110 runs batted in from 2012 – 2016, to an 85 OPS+ and an average of 27 home runs and 104 runs batted in.

On the reverse side, Walsh has startled to establish himself as a Major League hitter, seeing a 1.035 OPS with 15 home runs in his 51 games since the start of September 2020.

Self-aware of his statistics but rarely dwelling or commenting on any upcoming milestones, Pujols laughed as he was asked about an upcoming mark of being within the top-15 in games played for the history of Major League Baseball.

“That’s one thing about getting old (laughs). I’ve been playing this game for a long time.”

That “long time” consists of many historical milestones, such as being an exclusive member of the 600-home run and 3,000 hit club, a club that includes only himself, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, and Hank Aaron.

Everywhere you look in the record books, Pujols’ name rest near the top of every offensive statistic. He is guaranteed a place within the Hall of Fame with zero doubt.

Following the Wednesday night meeting between the club and Pujols, Albert declared that he hopes to continue playing at the Major League level.

“He’s as motivated as he’s ever been,” Minasian said. “If he does go somewhere else or pursues going somewhere else, I would not bet against him.”

As part of Pujols’ contract with the Angels, there is also a 10-year personal services contract that will begin following his retirement. Carpino noted that Pujols “expressed no timetable on his retirement.”

Pujols’ legacy with the Angels may be marked by the money and not the production, but his lasting impact on the clubhouse – that includes Mike Trout since 2012 – will be everlasting according to Maddon.

“We’re all going to miss him,” Maddon said. “He’s a presence. If you’re not impacted by his work ethic, then you can’t be impacted.”

Both Carpino and Minasian noted the professionalism Pujols showed during their potentially emotional meeting on Wednesday night, that concluded with the decision to move forward on releasing the 41-year-old future Hall-of-Famer.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to deal with Major League player for 30 plus years and (Albert) is as professional as any player I’ve ever dealt with,” Minasian stated. “There was no fight, no argument. This was a conversation that went back and forth. He expressed his feeling. We expressed ours. He understood where we stood on the whole situation and things did not end bad.”

With a shared hug between Pujols and Minasian, the conversation ended with a simple conclusion.

Albert Pujols is no longer a player in the Angels organization.

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