Commentary: With Albert Pujols on Dodgers, one of baseball's greats gets another title shot

·3 min read
Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols waves to players in the Colorado Rockies.
Albert Pujols, who was released by the Angels last week, has agreed to a deal with the Dodgers. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

When the Dodgers unveiled their latest stadium renovations last month, the club president proudly noted that pictures, posters and awards from the team’s storied past would delight fans wherever they walked.

Dodger Stadium, as Stan Kasten put it that day, would be an “open-air baseball history museum.”

On the field too. The Dodgers’ active roster is a living, breathing baseball history museum.

Clayton Kershaw is here, and now Albert Pujols is too. The greatest pitcher of his generation, now teammates with the greatest hitter of his generation.

Ladies and gentlemen, fans of all ages, come out to Dodger Stadium and see winners of most valuable player awards: Kershaw, Pujols, Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger!

See Cy Young winners: Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, David Price!

See a World Series MVP: Corey Seager!

See National League Championship Series MVPs: Pujols, Bellinger, Seager, Chris Taylor, Justin Turner!

We haven’t even gotten to Walker Buehler, who started the first game of the Dodgers’ 2020 postseason run, or to Julio Urías, who saved the last game of the World Series. We also haven’t gotten to cleanup batter Max Muncy, with consecutive 35-homer seasons, or to Kenley Jansen, a three-time All-Star.

When the Dodgers get healthy, half their 26-man roster could be made up of all-stars.

The Cardinals run St. Louis. In his decade of greatness, Pujols was the face of the Cardinals.

Albert Pujols celebrates during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres in July 2008.
Albert Pujols celebrates during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres in July 2008. (Tom Gannam / Associated Press)

L.A. loves its stars too. In his decade with the Angels, Pujols was not one of them.

Mike Trout was the face of the Angels. Kershaw was the face of the Dodgers.

But, in Pujols’ lost decade with the Angels, look what else happened: The Rams came home, and they went to the Super Bowl. The Kings won the Stanley Cup, twice. The Galaxy won a championship, and so did the Sparks. The Chargers showed up, and eventually so did Justin Herbert. The UCLA gymnastics team became a viral sensation, year after year.

Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers, and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George came home to play for them. David Beckham played here, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela followed him onto the local soccer fields. LeBron James and Anthony Davis took their talents to the Lakers, and the star-studded decade culminated with the Lakers and Dodgers winning championships last October, 16 days apart.

Pujols was a footnote in Southern California sports. The Dodgers offer a chance at a modest redemption.

In baseball, even four great players guarantee nothing. In 1982, the Angels featured four MVPs: Don Baylor, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson and Fred Lynn. The lineup also included sluggers Doug DeCinces, Brian Downing and Bobby Grich. The American League representative in the World Series that year: the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Dodgers have a limited role in mind for Pujols: right-handed bat off the bench. Pujols is 33 home runs shy of 700; if he gets even close, something has gone right for Pujols but wrong for the Dodgers.

Here’s the most important thing: The Dodgers do not need Pujols to sell tickets. In some other cities — we’re looking at you, St. Louis — Pujols would have been an attraction, in the Disneyland sense of the word.

The Dodgers only ask Pujols to hit: just a little, and not every day. If it does not work: no harm, no foul, the Angels are on the hook for $29.5 million of his $30-million salary this year.

If it works, Trout could be sitting home in October, still with zero postseason wins on his baseball card, watching on television as the guy that was supposed to be the other half of a dynamic duo in Anaheim gets another shot at the playoffs.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.