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CBSSports.com Senior Baseball Columnist

Pujols' arrival in Anaheim perhaps a call from higher up


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The phone call was brief, eye-opening and ever so simple.

Angels president John Carpino answered one day earlier this winter, and owner Arte Moreno was on the other end.

"What do you think about signing Albert Pujols?" Moreno asked, thinking out loud about making a run at one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history.

"Gee, Arte," Carpino replied, recreating the conversation on one of the most significant days in Southern California baseball history. "Give me a couple of hours to run the revenue numbers."

"No, no, that's not what I mean. What do you think the fans will think?"

"Arte, I think they'll love it."

"That's what I think, too. OK, talk to you later."

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With that, the stage was set for one of the most shocking, sensational and dramatic transactions in baseball history. This is Babe Ruth changing teams in his prime. Ted Williams opting out of Boston in the middle of his career.

Dressed in a white No. 5 jersey, red cap and wide smile, Pujols did not reveal any deep, dark secrets on his first day as an Angel. He didn't have to.

Sitting to his right at the head table during a civic rally billed as a "press conference" was all the revelation needed. Moreno writes the checks, made two key recruiting phone calls and sealed the deal with Pujols like an all-time closer.

As if a 10-year, $254 million deal isn't final enough, one more revelation Saturday should end any questions regarding whether Pujols might one day find his way back to the Cardinals as a distinguished alumnus like Stan Musial, Bob Gibson and Lou Brock: Pujols' deal with the Angels also includes a 10-year personal services clause.

So, in effect, Pujols is tied to the Angels for 20 years. When his playing days are finished, he will work as a spring training instructor, act as a consultant to the manager and/or GM and perform other duties.

It's hard to say this isn't about the money, so let's not even go there. But at the same time, let's make sure this is part of the equation, too: This was not solely about the money. Maybe not even mostly about the money.

During one incredibly crazy and whirlwind negotiation that lasted less than 48 hours, Moreno expressed all of the earnestness, warmth and longing that Pujols had hoped to feel from the Cardinals.

"You can never explain to people in full measure what happened here," Deidre Pujols, Albert's wife, said in what probably is as honest and full of an assessment as there ever will be.

"It was really emotional," Albert Pujols said in his first public comments since upending the baseball world. "At the same time, you feel that there's someone out there who wants you really bad and was doing everything he could to bring me to the club. ...

"It was tough. It was a very tough decision. Eleven years in St. Louis. It brings a lot of smiles. A lot of great things. When the decision came, it hit me really hard."

That decision came early Thursday morning following a Wednesday that surely will forever rank as one of the most exciting yet wrenching days in Pujols' life.

As St. Louis continued talks early in the week, the Marlins, with a big offer of their own, pressed hard on Monday, the first full day of the winter meetings in Dallas. How hard? According to sources, they told the Pujols Camp they wanted an answer the end of that day.

Agonizing over his decision, Pujols instructed his agent, Dan Lozano, that he was not ready to decide. So on Tuesday, the Marlins came back and said, well, OK, take more time. We're still interested. Also on Tuesday, the Cardinals unveiled a reported offer for 10 years and $220 million.

Then, sometime between 7 and 8 p.m. Tuesday in Dallas, Lozano fielded a call from new Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto.

"Do you have time to talk tomorrow?" Dipoto asked.

"Sure, what about?" Lozano replied.

"Number 5," Dipoto answered.

Said Lozano on Saturday in Anaheim: "I got a big smile on my face and said, 'Sure.'"

On Wednesday afternoon, Moreno made the first of two telephone calls directly to Pujols. He was direct, sincere and it became clear the Angels would be players.

Meanwhile, unhappy with the hard deadline the Marlins were attempting to impose, Pujols instructed Lozano to tell them they were no longer under consideration.

Wednesday evening, Pujols received a second call from Moreno. Also on the line were Lozano and Dipoto. Moreno and Pujols spoke for some 30 or 40 minutes. Moreno implored him to come west. The owner also said he was ready to move now. Unlike the Marlins, however, he did not issue a deadline ultimatum. But he wanted an answer soon.

Pujols said he was going to pray on it. Lozano was sure he would leave Dallas without a decision, that maybe Pujols would take two or three days minimum to decide.

Then at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Lozano's phone buzzed. It was Pujols with the answer that would forever alter the history of both the Cardinals and Angels.

"I know St. Louis people think it's all about the money," Pujols said. "But I have other offers out there for more money. They're calling me a liar. But it's all good.

"When I had to make the decision, it was tough. I know what [Cardinals fans] are going through. They're losing someone who's been a part of the community.

"At the same time, I made a decision. I'm being obedient. I didn't want to go to a place God didn't want me to go to."

As the Angels' higher power, perhaps Moreno has a direct pipeline to The Man (or Woman) Above. Perhaps this is some celestial arrangement. There is this: To a crowd estimated by the Anaheim Police Department to be roughly 4,200 at Pujols' public unveiling in front of Angel Stadium on Saturday, Moreno introduced Pujols as his "partner."

With a gargantuan new local television deal reportedly worth $3 billion over the next 20 years, and by granting Pujols the second-richest contract in baseball history, Moreno has pushed the Angels onto the same level as the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and, perhaps, Cubs as one of the game's superpowers.

Moreno would not comment on the new TV deal Saturday, but he did acknowledge generally that the new economics "stabilize this franchise for the longer term" and that this was carefully planned far in advance of the whirlwind 24-hour period that brought both the contract offer and Pujols' acceptance.

"I don't want to be in a situation where I have to tell fans we're going to cut payroll because I didn't do good enough planning," Moreno said.

He added: "Maybe in the last 50 years, we haven't seen a player like this. It was more I had the opportunity, and we could afford it."

Said Pujols: "He called me his 'partner', and that means a lot."

It's going to take a long time to digest this, to become accustomed to seeing Pujols in an Angels uniform.

To those in St. Louis who find all of this unfathomable, you're not alone.

"You know what, it's hard for me, too," Pujols said. "It's been hard for almost a year. You don't want to look for blame. It was hard. It was emotional.

"You're going to have friends and family who agree with you, and you're going to have other people who don't like it."

Said Lozano: "From Day One, I thought he would always remain a Cardinal."

But. ...

"I think a lot of people believe this decision was made on money and years," Lozano continued. "That's not was it was based on.

"You have to understand the outside factors. What Albert and Deidre were hearing from their own ears, I think, led them to believe that maybe it was never going to happen there."

Into the breech moved the Angels, rapidly and brazenly. This is not just a baseball move. This is a culture change. The Angels do not intend to finish second to the Rangers in the AL West, and they do not intend to finish second to the Dodgers in Southern California.

With Pujols, they instantly become national players on many, many different levels.

"I think," Carpino said, "it's showtime."


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