The Angels made the decision Thursday to designate longtime first baseman Albert Pujols for assignment. The future Hall of Famer had spent the last decade with the Angels and was in the final year of a 10-year, $240 million contract he signed with the team after leaving the Cardinals following the 2011 MLB season.
The move came as a surprise to many. Pujols’ production had dropped in recent years, but there hadn’t been any indication that the Angels were going to be moving on from him.
Even stranger is the apparent reason for Pujols’ release. According to Mike DiGiovanna of The Los Angeles Times, Pujols was upset that he wasn’t in the lineup to face Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough on Wednesday night. The veteran slugger had enjoyed a lot of success off Yarbrough in limited action against him, but apparently, it was the front office, not Joe Maddon, that made the decision to bench Pujols.
According to source, #Angels slugger Albert Pujols was upset that he wasn’t in lineup to face #Rays bulk LHP Ryan Yarbrough last night, and that the decision to bench him came from front office, not MGR Joe Maddon. Pujols was 6 for 9 with 2 HR, 2 2Bs, 7 RBIs vs. Yarbough.
— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) May 6, 2021
Given his numbers against Yarbrough, it would make sense that Pujols wanted to be in the lineup against him. It’s also reasonable for him to be upset that he wasn’t in the lineup due to a front office decision. It’s certainly out of the ordinary for front office staff doesn’t overrule the manager on lineup decisions. One has to wonder why the front office decided to intervene in this instance, or what they were looking to accomplish from making this decision.
With Dexter Fowler out for the season, Pujols had been playing on an everyday basis at first base with Jared Walsh playing Fowler’s usual position in right field. Perhaps they want to open up more opportunities for Walsh at first base while using a platoon in the outfield, but it’s unclear what their strategy is as a whole.
Pujols hadn’t been hitting particularly well on the year with a .198 average, but he had blasted five homers in 92 plate appearances. The Angels certainly could do worse than the 41-year-old considering their lackluster bench. But evidently, after this latest decision, there was no repairing the relationship between Pujols and the team.
As a result, the two sides parted ways and we’re left wondering if this is the end of the line for Pujols’ MLB career. If so, “The Machine” will end up with 667 homers in the books along with three MVP awards, two Gold Gloves, and six Silver Slugger awards.