UPDATE, DEC. 8, 2:50 P.M.: Step aside, Rick Warren, Robert Schuller and Bishop Tod Brown: the next great Orange County Christian soldier may very well be Albert Pujols. Christian author Scott Lamb, who co-wrote Pujols: More Than a Game, believes the slugger may do more than knock baseballs over the walls at the Big A. He may rise from the ashes near the Phoenix Club to save tens of thousands of souls. Make that, to the chagrin of the Barbara Coe crowd, Spanish-speaking souls.
Lamb brings this up near the end of a Christianity Today blog post that hems and haws over how the faithful should react to Pujols agreeing to a 10-year, $250 million contract with the Halos. The fear is it may not be perceived as very Christian leaving a place where you've established roots and faith-based charities for the big payday farther west and, let's face it, H-E-double-matchsticks-adjacent.
"I do think it will hurt what people perceive to be his Christian testimony. I'm not saying it's the way it should be, but I think it will," says Lamb of the deal for Pujols, who has said, "Baseball is simply my platform to elevate Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior."
But, later, Lamb notes that when he has seen Pujols speak about his faith in English to midwesterners, the remarks have been "short and stilted." That could change before the kind of massive Spanish-speaking audience the first baseman will be exposed to in Southern California.
"You get the sense that if you turn him loose and took the yoke of English off of him, he could speak more in his native tongue," Lamb tells blogger Sarah Pulliam Bailey. "[The deal] sure seems like it's just about the money, but I'm hoping it's more than that and time will tell."
ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 8, 8:44 A.M.: One of the best hitters and pitchers in baseball are reportedly coming to the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles.
ESPN breaks the news* that free agent slugger Albert Pujols has agreed to a 10-year, $250 million contract with the Halos that includes a no-trade clause. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated just broke the news that Anaheim signed Newport Beach-born C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $75 million deal.
Kendrys Morales must be so happy about the Pujols deal. (Read that line with sarcasm, of course.)
Morales, the everyday first baseman with the biggest bat in the Angels lineup, went down with a season-ending broken left ankle suffered while celebrating a homerun at home plate on May 29, 2010. He was cleared to resume playing this past March, but his recovery slowed and he was out for 2011 as well.
That cleared the way for Mark Trumbo--who also must be thrilled with the arrival of Pujols--to step in at first and have such a successful season he was the American League's runner-up rookie of the year.
Ah, well, at least the Angels should be solid at DH as well as first base.
Pujols had been in talks with the only major league team he has played for, the St. Louis Cardinals, who reportedly offered the most popular player there a nine-year deal worth less than $200 million that would have made him the fourth highest-paid first baseman in baseball.
Then talks heated up with the Miami Marlins, as the Florida Marlins are now known. Those talks apparently hung up on the no-trade clause--and allowed the Angels to swoop in and snag Pujols.
The first big Angels signing expected to come out of the winter meetings had been for Wilson, and when news of the Pujols deal came down some wondered if there would be no money left to snag the pitcher, who was also in talks with the Marlins.
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But Arte Moreno, the Angels owner known as a sleeping giant in baseball, obviously woke up and opened his checkbook to remind everyone who he is and really stick it to the Texas Rangers. Wilson had served there five years as a reliever, two as a starter, and helped Texas reach two World Series. The crafty lefty posted a 16-7 record this past season while also recording a 2.94 ERA in over 220 innings of work.
Pujols, the 2001 Rookie of the Year and a three-time MVP, batted .299 with 37 homers and 99 RBIs in 2011, the only season in his 11-year career that he didn't have 100 RBIs or hit better than .300. However, he was battling an arm injury, and his lifetime batting average is .328 with 445 home runs. No one has seen a slugger like him in 50 years.
The one ding the Angels will deal with from naysayers: Pujols and Wilson are both 31. Screw that. Savor the moment. We're back, baby.
*S.I. claims it beat ESPN on the Pujols scoop by 15 minutes.