Tony La Russa on Pujols Leaving Cardinals: “They understood they couldn’t afford him. Sometimes you gotta make that kind of decision.”

January 9, 2012 – 7:20 am by Steven Cuce

For the first time since Albert Pujols broke the hearts of St.Louis Cardinals fans and signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, we hear from Tony La Russa. The former Cardinals manager makes some of the same points we here at SRI and others have made regarding the Cardinals just not being able to afford Pujols any longer.

At the end of the day the Cardinals had to make a smart financial decision and from the sound it couldn’t even afford Pujols on a discount.

Tony La Russa joined KNBR in San Francisco with Gary and Larry to talk about not being caught off guard regarding Albert Pujols signing with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the St. Louis Cardinals being wrong for not trying harder to retain  Pujols, if he thinks Albert Pujols ever seriously considered taking a discount to stay with the Cardinals,  Pujols being a class act on and off the field, and if he expects Pujols to be booed in St.Louis when he next returns to play at Busch Stadium.

Did Albert Pujols catch you off guard ending up in Anaheim?

“No, I think it was a reasonable progression in the sense that it was such a big challenge financially for the Cardinals as well as if you are wrong your organization really suffers. You just can’t afford to make a mistake like that.”

Could you be wrong on a guy like that though?

“The only way you could be wrong is that on the number of years you pay that kind of money. Say in the last half of the contract you are paying $20 something million and a player is worth half that much that’s…only the really rich clubs can absorb that kind of [financial hit]…the Yankees can do it and about three or four clubs. The Cardinals we spent $100 million dollars. So there is nobody poor mouthing, but I think in the end it was a really tough challenge for them, so they really didn’t send Albert a strong message that if there is a big market that we can compete. I think the Angels came in and swooped him up. I just think the Cardinals understood they couldn’t afford him. Sometimes you gotta make that kind of decision.”

Is the whole move as cold as the Angels paid him more money and that’s why Albert Pujols left?

“I’ve been really vocal about this. I know he signed during the winter meetings or a few days later. I happened to be in St.Louis, so I had a chance to throw my two cents in. The fans were really upset with him. There’s still a lot of negativity to it. It really didn’t come – he made a P.R. mistake when he said it wasn’t about the money because you can’t say that because if the Angels and Cardinals offered the same amount  of money he’d have gone to St.Louis. Money is a factor. The point that I am making and I really believe – I know it is true – Albert was ready to give the Cardinals a tremendous and significant home discount. I am talking about signing for something like $60 or $65 million less than he signed for. That’s a lot of money he would have walked away from, but even at that level the Cardinals could not have swung it and felt like they were taking care of the franchise, so I think in the end when he realized I can’t get a deal here. They can’t afford a deal here that is reasonable then he went for the pot at the end of the rainbow and that’s a lot of money: $254 million or whatever they signed him for.”

Did Albert ever try to big time you?

“He was absolutely as close to perfect as you could expect a player to be for 11 years. I will tell you why: He never really changed the basic way he came to work, which was: I am going to play the game to win. At the end I am going to look and see what the numbers were. He did not chase the stats. He did not chase the money. He would go out there and say ‘Hey I got 4 at-bats.’ If you watched him play defense, if you watched him run the bases, he was always aware of the score. He was delightful. Once and awhile he may have a difference of opinion. I always encourage our guys to challenge anything that I do otherwise you guys are not robots out there. This way you learn and I learn. We would have a discussion and never did he ever disappoint me. I tell you the one point I am making. I challenge anyone to see this too often. If you see his clips you’ll see a lot of times in this historic comeback and the underdog World Series where we were doing something late to win a game and Albert sometimes wasn’t on the field. You look in the dugout. He was the number one cheerleader and he did this for 11 years. Even if he had 0-for-4 or 0-for-3 days, Albert was on the top step totally engrossed in a game and you can’t fake that kind of enthusiasm where he is cheering, he is pulling, he is suffering. I am just telling you this guy is a golden person on-and-off the field. I was never disappointed by him. Right now like I told the Cardinals fans pull for him unless he is playing your team in the World Series, then pull against him. Other than that pull for him.”

Do you think he will be booed in St.Louis?

“They don’t play in 2012. I think by the time it happens I think people will understand – people like myself are going to speak up and try to explain don’t blame the Cardinals. Don’t blame Albert. It’s just the system. I don’t think they will boo him.”

Listen to Tony La Russa on 680 KNBR in San Francisco here

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  1. 43 Responses to “Tony La Russa on Pujols Leaving Cardinals: “They understood they couldn’t afford him. Sometimes you gotta make that kind of decision.””

  2. There you have it. From Tony’s lips it must be true. Guess I won’t burn my autographed jersey like some have told me to do. Have a great season, Albert!

    By David on Jan 10, 2012

  3. Pujols makes me sick to my stomach. I never cared for him that much. Show me the money. That is all he ever cared about. It is a shame he kept using God’s name all the time. His god is money. I hope he never shows his face in St. Louis again.

    By Judith WESSLER on Jan 10, 2012

  4. I think Tony has done to much LSD or whatever he put in his eyes really screwed with his head!
    Sixty-five million dollars less? Thats a crock of SH..> I REFUSE to belive that came out of Tonys mouth and if it did, he is totally delusional!! And he obviously been hit in the head one to many times !!
    The highest reported offer was $220 million, surely not every single reporter was off by that much. He signed for approx 3.3M more a year. So if that statement where true then WTF happened ??

    Does this mean the Cards were so unwilling to re-sign the best player in team history that they put up less than 190? And all reports of 220 are totally wrong ?

    By john on Jan 10, 2012

  5. That’s the problem with a rocky season. Albert would have taken 195M in mid season even nefore the team was on the ropes, but the team was thinking it may be stretching it although he was well worth it. When they took off it also worked against the team acquiring him as he became all the more in demand, so when the team came back with 213M offer it found itself in a major competition. Good Luck Alberto and Good Luck Cards each with exciting challenges.

    By Kevin on Jan 10, 2012

  6. Kevin, I agree with you that the WS run made him even more in demand,. BUT that statement TLR made about taking 65M less is totally delusional!
    There was no way though he was going to even talk about his money during the season and management made him a 200M offer prior to camp! So once camp started it really did not matter any longer.
    He was going and he knew it, It was just a matter of some team Like Artie coming out of the woodwork to put the cap on the bottle.

    By john on Jan 10, 2012

  7. good luck albert i hope you do well we at st. louis will do our best to 60 years a cardinal fan

    By robert boose on Jan 10, 2012

  8. I’m a season ticket holder.
    Yes Tony. He will be booed.

    By Mike on Jan 10, 2012

  9. Albert is a great player,but any team offering that kind of money, for ten years,at that age is daft.Only an AL could would even consider it
    ,because of the designated hitter.Even at that the Yankees,and Angels will end up regretting it.

    By BILL on Jan 10, 2012

  10. It’s always about the money, however I thought Albert may be different because of his faith in God. I don’t know what kind of God he worships but mine hates GREED. He conned us all. He’s a coward and uses his wife and TLR to try and save his image. To late Amigo

    By Bud on Jan 10, 2012

  11. It’s all about SHOW ME THE MONEY. Even one of Albert’s prior biggest fans, my granddaughter, age 12 yrs., can no longer stand him.

    Stan Musial will always be The Man for St Louis Cardinal fans, as well he should be.

    By Diana on Jan 10, 2012

  12. In my humble opinion, this whole thing started when the Caddinals signed Holliday
    for more money than Pujols was making.
    How would you like to be recognized as the best player in baseball, and not be the highest
    paid player on your team.
    Every man has his pride, and I think The Cards hurt Albert’s.

    By 50+Fan on Jan 10, 2012

  13. Tony and Albert are friends so I take the interview like I should take it, you nod your head politely and walk away. It’s not the truth , it’s not a lie, it is what it is! No matter who it is a top of the line contract for ten years is something you don’t gamble with when the player is already approaching 33 years old. To be honest, I do question whether or not he’s 32. That said THANKS FOR THE YEARS YOU HAD HERE IN ST.LOUIS! They were fantastic and good luck in the future Albert!

    By Gottogo on Jan 10, 2012

  14. If Tony is correct that Albert was willing to give the Cardinals a home town discount of 60 to 65 million dollars, then the Cardinals lied about what they offered. The word in St. Louis was that the Cardinals offered him a 10 year deal worth 210 million dollars. Just do the math. Somebody is wrong or dissembling. As a Cardinal fan, if Albert ever comes back and plays in Busch Stadium (hopefully in the 2012 World Series) I won’t boo him, but I ain’t giving him a standing O, either.

    By EJS on Jan 10, 2012

  15. As a radio producer/reporter, I have had some rather lengthy, thorough interviews and conversations with Albert since he first came up in 2001 [west coast swings]. Gracious, accommodating and always found time for our broadcasts. So, I agree with Tony about Albert as a true pro, and as a person. I have not spoken to Albert for some time, but I will as I travel to Anaheim during the season. As to the contract issue and leaving St. Louis, there are so many nuances and intricate aspects that may never be revealed. That being said, the bottom line is the money. The Cardinals will be just fine and I will always be a Cardinal fan in my heart. Albert will be included in those fond thoughts.

    By Gary Patrick on Jan 10, 2012

  16. As it turns out, it was 240 million and 4 season tickets. Boy, those season tickets to Angels games must be worth a mint. Sorry to see “the mang” go, but the Cardinals do not need a traitor or a liar.

    By JoeyD on Jan 10, 2012

  17. As a TRUE blooded cardinals fan I thank AP5 for his efforts for 11 yrs, also his gamesmanship regardless of being underpaid for the last 7yrs. He highlighted the Cards to 2the rings and was behind his teammates every game. Yes my not baseball feelings are crushed but I’m over it. There are 25only men that deserve our attention now. I will be bleeding StL Red for the remainder of my life and will cheer the athletes that are playing hard with birds on their chest. Be true Cardinal Nation!!!

    By Rustoff28 on Jan 10, 2012

  18. It was always about the $$ with Albert. His scumbag agent Lozano wanted ARod $$$ to start with. I have talked with people who dealt with him and said his arrogance showed its ugly head. Bill D was not going to be warm and fuzzy, ego and dollars won out in the end. When Albert does come to St.Louis we should have complete silence in the stands to show our displeasure with him unless of course God tells us differently!

    By Tim Kennedy on Jan 10, 2012

  19. Angels will be stuck when Pujols get 35 year old…and get old

    By JHT on Jan 10, 2012

  20. Always resented how he didnt think he needed to run out ground balls. He taught Yadi the same. His God is money, always was.

    By Milt on Jan 10, 2012

  21. For anyone accusing Albert of “his god is money,” I hope you go on the rest of your life turning down other employers that offer you a raise to work for them because, after all, your current employer has been good to you for the past 11 years. You can accuse Albert of being selfish because he’s playing for a team that will pay him more than the Cardinals, but fans of 29 other teams would say you’re being selfish if you think it’s your birthright to have Albert at a discount just because you cheered him for 11 years. Let’s move on people. I have no doubt Albert will do good things with the money he makes in Anaheim just as he did good things with the money he made in St. Louis. We can all still be Cardinals fans and Albert fans and realize that this is how baseball works today. If we’re going to reap the benefits of a sport where free agents can go where they want and teams can pay free agents what they want then we also have to take the good with the bad.

    By Come on People on Jan 10, 2012

  22. Well glad this free agent crap with Albert is over.when he came up you knew he was special. As it turned out .he became the best player to walk on earth. Ill always consider the best player to play the game.he has nothing to prove after the last eleven years. I believed him when he said had all the money. He would ever need. I have no respect for him or is dumbbell wife.he ran for the best deal he could get

    By ernie on Jan 10, 2012

  23. Major league baseball needs to change the rules.. they have more than enough owners to change the ruleson sharing

    By ernie on Jan 10, 2012

  24. Put all the high rolling teams that h ave the most mone y. In the same division and let them fight it out with the best players. Then watch how quickly fat cat owners stop their crazy spending ways as their big dollar teams won’t be making it playoffs

    By ernie on Jan 10, 2012

  25. ALBERT. PUJOLS LIED. Hope he has all the bad luck he can have,

    By ernie on Jan 10, 2012

  26. in my honest opinion I think Albert’s failure to run out ground balls this past season had more to do with nagging ankle injuries than anything else.
    I stil think he has various injury problems which will eventually force him to become a disignated hiter long before his 10 year coontract with L.A. ends, and that would be the real reason he ended up in L.A.

    By John on Jan 10, 2012

  27. I love the Cardinals and hated to see them lose Albert Pujols. Ever since A-Rod signed his mega contract with the Texas Rangers in 2000, the upper level salaries have been totally outrageous. I think the Cards made a fair offer to keep him, but it would make little fiscal sense to pay that much $254 million for 10 years). The Angels are taking a major gamble for the length of time of this contract. Albert is the best in baseball NOW but what about in 4 or 5 years. One consolation, at least he didn’t sign with the CUBS. Praise the Lord!!!

    By Dave from Iowa on Jan 10, 2012

  28. I can’t wait until the angels see that Pujols doesn’t run out ground balls and run through stop signs at third. Sometimes I think he thought he could do what ever he wanted and he knew more than anyone else. Maybe it is better that he is gone so he doesn’t rub off on any of the younger players.

    By KCK on Jan 10, 2012

  29. I hated leaving St. Louis and stayed a Cards fan. Was always proud of the reputation Cards fans had as classy and true baseball fans. That’s all history I guess. St. Louis is trying to be a city full of low class “boo-birds” like Philly. Love that Big Mac Land is still in stadium but you’re going to boo Albert? Hypocrites!

    By Ruth on Jan 11, 2012

  30. Albert has been a good player and is still a good player. I don’t blame the cardinals for not signing him at this price and You can’t blame Puhols for taking the money. Of course he is being over paid. I suspect In 7-8 yrs HIs career will be about over but he will be receiving the big money. I can’t blame him for this.

    By bob green on Jan 11, 2012

  31. I think some of you are looking at Albert as if he is on trial for his decision to sign with the Angels. St. Louis Fans need to respect his decision rather they think it is right or wrong, “it was his decision.” He is a great player. We need to remember we are the fans – not the Cardinals Management – not his former manager, and not his agent and certainly not Albert. We will miss Albert but we will survive and do well. I hope we keep our great reputation as the best fans. As a life long Cardinal Fan I wish Albert the best and I will cherish all the years he played for the Cardinals.

    By Helen Moore on Jan 11, 2012

  32. Albert is the best player both leagues, he will do well for 3-4 yrs and then he will just be another average player. As a Cardinal fan for more than 50 yrs, they will do great things and another star will evolve.
    GO EL BIRDOS, wishing Albert the best of luck, he will miss the Cardinal fans.

    By mjsledge on Jan 11, 2012

  33. Choose Peace Please
    Enjoy what you have.
    We are the Champions
    We can act like Champions

    By HawkBryan on Jan 11, 2012

  34. I hope Albert the best with the ANGELS. I have been a cardinal fan for over 56 years. I’ve seen other teams good players leave and they come right back to the World Series. So fans get over Albert. He did not do this to hurt the Cardinal fans. He did this for his family. I do not blame him for going where the money is. We have still have STAN the MAN THANK GOD HE IS STILL AROUND. He is my favorite ball player of all time. I liked Willie the Mick and the Duke. But STAN is my man.

    By James A. Methvin Jr. on Jan 11, 2012

  35. Not to worry Cards fans! We got the BEST 10 years out of Albert. The Angels will NOT get that out of him!!

    By Harold M. on Jan 11, 2012

  36. Okay, Albert has, and even though he left, always will be my favorite player of all time.
    You can’t blame him for taking the big money offer. Anyone would. And even though i don’t like his decision, i respect it. Because after all, we are just the fans. It was his decision. Even though he left i will love him all the same. Even if it is hard. Of course i will still like the cardinals more, because they are st. louis’s team, but i wil still like albert, even if i didnt like his decision. and even if other people boo him, i will never.

    By morgan on Jan 11, 2012

  37. Ap is a $ hungry scumbag! I will boo him and maybe make a trip to do the same. He lied about holliday and the discount. He also wanted him here to help the cards win. My loyalty is with the cards, pupils has no loyalty.

    By Tony bayless on Jan 11, 2012

  38. My ap jersey is now a doormat. Of course I did take the cards logo off

    By Tony on Jan 11, 2012

  39. Tony, if you really took the Cardinals logo off that is sad. If you are angry at AP$ then remove the name not the logo or number, as there were many great #5’s in Cards history. Remember, 1 player does not make the organization.
    We are customers and they are business men. While I will not cheer for AP$ again, I will not boo him, as I did enjoy his years as an El Birdo and he didn’t rape, kill, cheat or do anything unlawful.

    I am a Cardinal first and will always act like one and not a Philly fan.

    By Brett on Jan 11, 2012

  40. Wow didn’t know that I m following a team that has so many losers for fan Albert did so much for us for 11 years won us two world series hope all you losers get hurt like your hurting him go Albert hope your angels win the world series for next 10 years so all those losers can go cry to mommy give me my bottle and make sure its warm

    By andy waldner on Jan 31, 2012

  41. Whatever the history in St. Louis we are happy to have him. What a great series you all had…fun to watch even if you weren’ t a Cardinals fan. By the way, you can boo him when we play you in October.

    By angelfan on Feb 4, 2012

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