Most professional athletes' final years feel like a slog. Some may even call them ugly. Especially for legends. Their bodies just don't move like they used to. Their shoulders are blown out, their reflexes slowed, their bodies sore. Passes are short, hitters are slow, shots are bricked. That's the way old age in legends normally goes.
When Albert Pujols announced he would return to St. Louis for his 22nd season, one final season, one final victory tour, this is what most people expected. After years of struggling with the Angels, his return seemed more like a glorified retirement, a final goodbye, a chance to pay homage to the city that raised him.
But instead, he ended up doing the opposite. He turned into 22-year-old Pujols, and he gave us one of the most exciting baseball seasons in recent memory. Now, he's retired, and we don't know what to do. Let's just be honest — we miss him. Already. We miss watching him come up to bat, our eyes pinned to the TV, just waiting for something magical to happen. We want to see him chase more home-run records.
And Albert must miss that, too, right? I mean, he has to. He has to be thinking he has another year left in the tank. That he could take a shot at hitting 12 more home runs and passing Babe Ruth on the all-time list. That he could, along with Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, bring a title back to St. Louis. He could bask in the glory of another year in front of the Cardinals faithful. He could rewrite the narrative for older athletes. I mean, he has to be thinking this, right?
I mean, Tom Brady did it. He retired. People wrote love letters and talked about how much he meant to the game. They honored him as if he was gone forever. Fox gave him a $375 million, 10-year contract to become a commentator. Then, two months later, in the middle of a March workday, he went on social media and said throw away those goodbye notes — Brady is returning.
No one saw Brady coming back after he retired. But no one saw Pujols coming back to the Cardinals either. No one saw him hitting 24 home runs, his most since 2016. No one saw him reaching 700 home runs. So why can't Pujols do something else no one sees coming? Return for one more year.Welcome to Bold Predictions for 2023, an effort to forecast what the future holds for the St. Louis region.
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