I think my struggle with Albert Pujols is almost over.
When the Pujols deal with Anaheim was announced, I felt, probably like you, that penetrating sting of sharp pain, disappointment and rejection. But like most of us when deeply wounded, I quickly converted the hurt feelings to a seemingly more empowering emotion — anger ... at Albert.
"He's motivated by greed after all... how much money is enough?... where's his priorities?... where's his Christian faith?"
In my process of psychoanalyzing Albert, I struggled to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"Maybe he sees the LA media and entertainment mecca as a broader platform from which to expand his foundation's humanitarian work," I speculated. "After all, his charitable track record is well established. "Maybe Albert sees increased opportunity to be an influential role model to the vast Southern California Hispanic community. That's always been important to him with regard to the Dominican youth where much of his relief work is focused."
In the meantime, some sports pundits began critiquing the Cardinals approach, pointing out the recent "insulting" five-year offer. That was instead of a "Cardinal forever" proposal, which all parties supposedly desired.
Then came the St. Louis interviews with Albert and Deidre Pujols in which it was asserted that even the ten-year contract the Cardinals eventually offered did not include the "Cardinal forever" guarantee they were seeking. Deidre said they hated the free agent process and never wanted to be in position to go through it again. Was it possible the Pujols family's priority was stability and permanence like they implied all along?
"I was in the room, next to Albert," Deidre said, "and there were several people on the phone. I was a witness for Albert saying ‘Hey Bill [DeWitt], let's do this for my family, lets do it for the franchise and for the fans.'"
In coming to the ultimate decision to leave, Albert said, "I was angry. I was crying. I was sad. I couldn't even tell my kids... It was tough."
The process of speculating and evaluating Albert's motives has been exhausting. More significantly, it's been personally and spiritually destabilizing.
Jesus cautioned plainly, "Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves" (Matthew 7:1). The New Testament assures us there is a just and personal God who will eventually make things right. "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts..." That day of reckoning, the passage makes clear, is not all bad, "... at that time each will receive his praise from God" (I Corinthians 4:5).
To refrain from passing judgment, especially on one who we feel has hurt and disappointed us, is hard. Very hard. But for followers of Jesus, it's our calling.
Slowly — too slowly — I came to realize I haven't been battling with Albert Pujols at all. I've been battling with myself.
Pastor Bob Levin serves at North County Community Church, 7410 Howdershell Road in Hazelwood. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.