C'mon, like anyone else had a chance at this one? Take a guy who appeared seemingly out of nowhere a decade ago, and watch as he wills himself into being the best hitter in the game, and then drives himself and the team to three World Series. Marvel at this humble man who says all the right things about the town, the team, its history and the fans, all while remaining happily and faithfully married. And then comes the finale: an out-of-nowhere World Series in which he launches three homers in one game, helping carry his loyal coach to one final title in his last go at the diamond ring. Take all of that — the once-in-a-generation talent, the perfect union of setting and scene, the unassailable ascent toward glory and immortality — then crumble it in a ball and fling it in the face of everyone who ever cheered for you in the space of one brief phone call on a tension-fraught December morning. Shakespeare himself didn't have a drama-boner thick and veiny enough to script that sort of magnificent betrayal. Albert Pujols broke a city's heart for reasons we still don't understand, so we say it was for filthy lucre. And yet that's so far out of character from the man we thought we knew that we're still chewing it over, wondering where it went wrong and dreaming of any other outcome, and inwardly we blame ourselves. Come back to the five-and-dime, El Hombre; come back so we can spit on you, and then forgive you. And then maybe you'll forgive us, for whatever it was we did that drove you away.
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