Albert Pujols vs. LeBron James: Decisions, Decisions

You’ve probably heard by now that former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has agreed to a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for a reported $250-260 million over 10 years. Don’t worry, this is not a referendum on professional athletes’ salaries. This post is about decisions and the consequences thereof. Albert Pujols made a conscious decision to leave the Cardinals to sign with the Angels. If you’ll remember, another high-profile athlete made a similar decision in the summer of 2010. Of course you remember when LeBron James decided to “take his talents to South Beach” on national television.

When James signed with the Miami Heat and left Cleveland, Cavaliers fans were furious. The dust from the decision settled and one fact remained. James left Cleveland because he wanted to go to a team where he had the best chance of winning. Under the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, Cleveland could have offered James up to $30 million more than any other team. Money wasn’t the issue. James thought he could win on a team with Dwayne Wade and Chis Bosh. He almost did. The Heat lost in the NBA Finals 4-2 to the Dallas Mavericks. Cleveland regressed considerably – posting the worst record in the league last season.

Conversely, Pujols had an entirely different motivation. Albert Pujols portrays himself as a man of faith and good character. He does great work in the community and had professed an allegiance to the Cardinals. He said that he wanted to be a Cardinal for life and winning was very important to him. The Cardinals are the current World Series Champions. On that basis alone, there was nowhere else to go. Men like Musial, Brock, Gibson and Ozzie are Cardinals for life. To be in that company makes you a baseball immortal. Pujols’ words didn’t line up with his actions. This is where the character component comes in. Be who you say you are. If you’re about money, then say it. If you’re about winning, that’s OK too.

Professional athletes are a reflection of us. Some are honest. Some are greedy. Most are in the middle. LeBron James deserves credit for sticking to his principles. He’s chasing the elusive brass ring. Albert Pujols traded his brass ring for some gold coins. Gold does have value, though. We used to use it to prop up the value of the American dollar. Maybe Pujols can use his to prop up a broken reputation. Until next time…

Be a Good Sport!

-Sol

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