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OC Register: Alexander: For Mike Trout, Albert Pujols’ departure was a personal loss


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Mike Trout said he figured something was up when relief pitcher Steve Cishek came in and told him that Albert Pujols was hugging everyone in the clubhouse.

“I said, ‘Man, that doesn’t sound right,’” Trout related Friday afternoon.

It was an unexpected goodbye.

The Angels stunned not only their own players but all of baseball on Thursday by designating Pujols for assignment. And it was absolutely a shock for Trout, who had assumed Pujols’ mantle long ago as the best player in the game and had been fortunate enough to play alongside him for the last decade.

“I’m thinking to myself, there’s Mike and there’s Albert,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “You know, 10 years ago Albert was Michael … I’d say there’s today’s best player talking to 10 years ago’s best player. That doesn’t happen all the time.”

Future Hall of Famers might speak a different language than you and I. For sure, they see and understand the game differently than we mortals. And it is rare to have that daily interaction in the same clubhouse between players who are locks for Cooperstown, who not only interact but develop a solid, unshakable bond.

“I can’t thank him enough,” Trout said. “Obviously, all the stuff he accomplished on the field, it’s pretty incredible. And you see him pass these Hall of Fame guys night in and night out these last few years.

“All that stuff is great, but he’s a better person, a better teammate. The passion he has for this game is incredible. He comes in … last year of his 10-year deal, just the work he puts in every day – same routine, doesn’t matter what day it is, (if it’s a) day game, he’s coming in, preparing himself, getting ready for that game. And it’s pretty amazing to watch.”

The move was, as referenced above, a gut punch in the Angels’ clubhouse. It had people throughout the game wondering if the situation could have been handled better, and in fact, three-time Cy Young Award-winner Pedro Martinez – who already has a plaque in Cooperstown – called it “shameful.”

But to be honest, when first-year General Manager Perry Minasian made the move Thursday, you could also make the argument that it might have been two or three years too late.

At the time Arte Moreno gave Pujols that 10-year, $240 million contract in December of 2011, I made the observation that if a player brings you a World Series early in that contract, it’s all worth it. If he doesn’t, the longer the deal runs the more of an albatross it becomes. As Pujols’ production declined, and as his team spent season after season out of the playoffs, it became a greater burden.

(If you subscribe to that theory, Mookie Betts’ 12-year, $365 million Dodgers contract has already paid for itself. Trout, who signed his 12-year, $426.5 million deal in 2019, is on the clock.)

But there has been this incalculable benefit over the last decade in Anaheim: Who better for Trout to have had as a mentor?

“Everything you can accomplish on a baseball field, he had done,” Trout said. “I could go up to him and talk about anything. And he was really good about – he knew, for instance, if I’m struggling at the plate or if I’m struggling anywhere, he knows the perfect time to come up and throw something out. He just has that feel.

“You really listen (to) what he has to say. And over the years we just built a relationship. He went through everything I went through – coming up and having success early … I don’t know if he really struggled in St. Louis that much, but (he talked about) just going through struggles, how to get through it. He’s always had a positive mindset. And it’s pretty incredible, the passion and the work he puts in to become the best.”

The suddenness of the move probably had an effect on the Angels’ performance Thursday night against Tampa Bay. But maybe it will provide a jolt of a different sort after the initial shock wears off.

“There’s a responsibility among the players (who have been waiting for opportunities), and now it’s up to them to take advantage of this opportunity,” Maddon said, referring particularly to Jared Walsh, now the everyday first baseman. “It’s a difficult moment for the person that has left, (and) for the group that he’s left. But there’s also (players who) all of a sudden have this wonderful opportunity to make their mark as a Major League Baseball player. And you want to believe that’s what’s going to happen.”

No matter what happens, whether Pujols resurfaces elsewhere or not once he clears waivers, he will have left a legacy in the Angels’ clubhouse … and particularly the stall where No. 27 hangs.

“I can’t thank him enough,” Trout said. “He was an unbelievable person, an unbelievable friend to me and a great teammate. We’re obviously keeping in touch a lot, and hopefully, he gets picked up by somebody.”

If he does, can you imagine that hug behind the batting cage?

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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5 hours ago, Dochalo said:

still nothing from the man that will have paid him $250 mil but a canned tweet.  

Arte has been much less visible over the past 2-3 years. Seems like he rarely gives interviews or shows up on camera in any way.

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2 minutes ago, eligrba said:

I continue to be surprised at the level of disconnect that players like Pedro Martinez have from reality.  For 10 years, the Angels quietly endured one of the worst contracts signed to a professional athlete.  The Angels never publicly commented on Albert's decline, which began almost immediately.  Publicly, the Angels only fed Albert's ego and recognized his historical accomplishments.  The media never asked Albert or the Angels the obvious and difficult questions that would have been asked if this was New York or Boston.  For 10 years, the Angels treated Albert differently, which was undeserved based on his performance with the Angels.

I completely understand the feeling of loss many Angels players must be feeling.  However, this pity-party from people like Pedro is pathetic.  Albert has verified that he is a self-centered person only concerned about his situation.  A "great player, great teammate and role model" would have recognized that Ohtani and Walsh are better players and the team needs them to play every day.  A "great player, great teammate and role model" would have seamlessly stepped into a role supporting the team in other ways outside of playing time.  But no, Albert drew a line in the sand like a pechelent millionaire by wanting his role to only be as a full time player.

At this point, I want Albert to get the fuck out of here and applaud the Angels in severing ties with a player who at the end of his contract had no interest in winning games or getting Trout to the playoffs.  Albert's only apparent motivation in the end was himself.

Pretty much in agreeance.

He does a lot of good off the field, but he was abysmal for the vast majority of his tenure here and was always treated with kid gloves due to his legacy in St. Louis and the soft OC media market.  He's basically just lucky that we haven't developed anyone that could take his place until recently, that his contract was for such a stupidly long length of time, and that the team has been mostly terrible for the majority of his tenure.  If his contract was with a competitive team in a more aggressive media market he would have been riding the pine for years already.  Someone made a post I though was relevant that basically said if his contract was 5 or 6 years instead of 10 he would have been out of the league a long time ago.

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17 minutes ago, eligrba said:

I continue to be surprised at the level of disconnect that players like Pedro Martinez have from reality.  For 10 years, the Angels quietly endured one of the worst contracts signed to a professional athlete.  The Angels never publicly commented on Albert's decline, which began almost immediately.  Publicly, the Angels only fed Albert's ego and recognized his historical accomplishments.  The media never asked Albert or the Angels the obvious and difficult questions that would have been asked if this was New York or Boston.  For 10 years, the Angels treated Albert differently, which was undeserved based on his performance with the Angels.

I completely understand the feeling of loss many Angels players must be feeling.  However, this pity-party from people like Pedro is pathetic.  Albert has verified that he is a self-centered person only concerned about his situation.  A "great player, great teammate and role model" would have recognized that Ohtani and Walsh are better players and the team needs them to play every day.  A "great player, great teammate and role model" would have seamlessly stepped into a role supporting the team in other ways outside of playing time.  But no, Albert drew a line in the sand like a pechelent millionaire by wanting his role to only be as a full time player.

At this point, I want Albert to get the fuck out of here and applaud the Angels in severing ties with a player who at the end of his contract had no interest in winning games or getting Trout to the playoffs.  Albert's only apparent motivation in the end was himself.

I completely agree with you here.  The one question I would ask the players if I was the reporter would be..."Do you feel you're a better team now knowing that Pujols is off the roster?"  Then I'd run away as fast as possible.  LMAO

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9 minutes ago, halonatic13 said:

I completely agree with you here.  The one question I would ask the players if I was the reporter would be..."Do you feel you're a better team now knowing that Pujols is off the roster?"  Then I'd run away as fast as possible.  LMAO

Instead you'd get the hard-hitting Gubi and Alex Curry interview: "Can you talk about how awesome and amazing Albert is and how he helped pick your dog's name?"

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I’ll laugh if this is a contributing factor to Trout requesting a trade down the line.  And again, you guys didn’t expect Trout would be pissed off his mentor was (for many observers) just dumped?

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4 minutes ago, Lhalo said:

The Angels org needs to distance themselves from Pujols’ “legacy” immediately. None of us want to hear about his accomplishments that we’re all a result of his years in St. Louis. He was terrible for the Angels and his contract hampered this team’s ability to win games for a decade. It’s not only time to turn the page, it’s time to close the book and throw it in the fireplace. 

We’re you at the game yesterday?  You mentioned Pujols tributes between innings?

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1 minute ago, cals said:

We’re you at the game yesterday?  You mentioned Pujols tributes between innings?

Yes. They had some cheesy montage showing his 3,000th hit among other highlights. Pathetic. 

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It was a great game to be at though. The Dodgers fans were completely deflated after the first few innings. Little Puppet and Smiley couldn’t do anything but drown their tears in their Budweisers. 

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Just now, Lhalo said:

It was a great game to be at though. The Dodgers fans were completely deflated after the first few innings. Little Puppet and Smiley couldn’t do anything but drown their tears in their Budweisers. 

I wouldn’t imagine there were a lot of cholos in the Diamond Club.

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16 minutes ago, cals said:

I’ll laugh if this is a contributing factor to Trout requesting a trade down the line.  And again, you guys didn’t expect Trout would be pissed off his mentor was (for many observers) just dumped?

If it is then goodbye Mike.  

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13 minutes ago, cals said:

I wouldn’t imagine there were a lot of cholos in the Diamond Club.

I wasn’t in the Diamond Club. I was above the Doyyers’ dugout. The heart of Choloville. 

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Just now, Lhalo said:

I wasn’t in the Diamond Club. I was above the Doyyers’ dugout. The heart of Choloville. 

Still gonna have to call BS.  The entire burrito would have to throw in a weeks wages to afford one seat in that section.

This the Dodger fan you were sitting next to.

5170C41D-8988-4EF2-8399-9ECDF2264663.gif

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7 minutes ago, cals said:

Still gonna have to call BS.  The entire burrito would have to throw in a weeks wages to afford one seat in that section.

This the Dodger fan you were sitting next to.

5170C41D-8988-4EF2-8399-9ECDF2264663.gif

It’s amazing what stimulus checks have done for the Dodger fan base. Empty Modelos all over the stadium. The fight down at the end of the 3rd baseline was nice to look at from a distance. 

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4 minutes ago, Lhalo said:

It’s amazing what stimulus checks have done for the Dodger fan base. Empty Modelos all over the stadium. The fight down at the end of the 3rd baseline was nice to look at from a distance. 

What is the cost of these beers now, $14?

I went to some games two years ago and couldn't find Arte's cheap beer anymore. I looked around (I refuse to pay $14) but no luck.

As I recall, that was a 14-ounce beer in a cup for $4.50. 

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