Mike Trout and Albert Pujols have defined the good and the bad of the Los Angeles Angels franchise over the past decade. The good — beyond Trout’s Hall of Fame play — was the mentor-mentee bond that formed between him and Pujols. It was also the way Pujols commanded as a leader in the locker room and in the Anaheim community.
However, all of that good came with plenty of bad. Pujols was marred by injury almost immediately upon arrival with the Angels, and for the latter half of his 10-year contract, he was a below-replacement-level player. Because of this, what seemed like a shocking move to designate Pujols for assignment was, in reality, likely a few years too late.
All the while, this doesn’t make the decision any less painful for those who had grown a close bond with Pujols over the years, especially Trout, who was particularly hurt by the news, according to Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic:
“It hit me a lot,” Trout said of Pujols’ sudden release. “I broke down a little bit, just knowing that he’s been here for the whole time I’ve been here. It can be gone just like that.”
Even though all the facts and figures dictate that the Angels could have made this move in 2017, Trout and the team felt a sense of respect for who Pujols was on and off the field.
“There’s a respect that you have for the guy,” Trout noted. “I’ve just grown up watching him on TV. Every time you’d turn ESPN on, it’s Albert and the Cardinals and he’s hit another homer, hitting another walk off. So when you walk into a clubhouse, you feel his presence. You get to know him, talk to him and you’re respecting him as a person, not just on a baseball field. Everything he says, you listen and hear what he has to say, and over the years we’ve been building this relationship. He’s been through everything I went through, coming up and having success early.
“He’s been my guy, and he mentored me throughout my whole career.”
Now, it’s Trout’s turn to take over as the vocal leader in the clubhouse. He’ll have no problems taking the lessons he’s learned from Pujols over the past ten years and applying it, as no one ever questioned Pujols’ leadership abilities.
Sadly, the Pujols-Trout pairing never resulted in a championship. In fact, it never even resulted in a single playoff victory. However, the Angels and Pujols felt it was time to move on, leaving Trout with a younger and more talented team that desperately wants to take the leap into the postseason.
Angels’ Perry Minasian felt confident in Pujols decision
After watching the team in action for a month, Angels general manager Perry Minasian had his suspicions confirmed, and knew that it was time to move away from Pujols. Instead, the team will turn to Jared Walsh as the full-time first baseman, and will likely platoon between Taylor Ward and Juan Lagares in right field for the time being.