He was ridiculed for attending Glenn Beck's 8/28 rally in 2010. And now, baseball mega-star Albert Pujols is facing fresh criticism for signing a monster new contract Thursday that takes him away from the St. Louis Cardinals -- the only team he's ever played for. How much criticism? Consider that security guards were dispatched today to protect a statue the star recently unveiled outside a local restaurant.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
A warning to any fans thinking of attacking the statue of Albert Pujols at West Port Plaza and tearing it down à la Saddam Hussein: Security guards have been posted there.
Just in case.
They stood outside, keeping an eye on the bronze depiction of Pujols pointing at the sky. Inside the nearby Pujols 5 restaurant, the operators were trying to take the superstar player's departure in stride, adding angel food cake to the menu in honor of the move to the Angels of Anaheim.
"I feel the same way I did when La Russa retired," said David Hanon, son of restaurant owner Patrick Hanon. "It's going to take a little bit of time to get over it."
The restaurant will stay, David Hanon said.
"It's a sad day," Hanon said. "We're losing somebody we've loved for 11 years. (But) as long as his number stays 5, we'll stay here."
The three-time NL MVP agreed Thursday to a $254 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels, leaving the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals after more than a decade for a new baseball life in southern California.
Pujols' contract, which is subject to a physical, is the second-highest in baseball history and only the third to break the $200 million barrier, following Alex Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas before the 2001 season and A-Rod's $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.
"This is a monumental day for Angel fans and I could not be more excited," Angels owner Arte Moreno said.
In addition to the Pujols signing, the Angels agreed to a five-year contract with left-hander C.J. Wilson, a deal worth $77.5 million that raised their spending for the day to $331.5 million.
People familiar with the deals told The Associated Press the terms of each contract, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details were not made public.
Pujols had spent all 11 of his major league seasons with the Cardinals, hitting .338 with 445 home runs and 1,329 RBIs to become a franchise icon second only to Stan Musial. He is fourth in career slugging percentage at .617, trailing only Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (.690), Ted Williams (.634) and Lou Gehrig (.632).
Pujols' numbers in nearly every major offensive category are on a three-year decline. He had his poorest season in 2011 and at 31 is likely to spend the majority of his career with the Angels at designated hitter rather than first base.
"We are disappointed," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. "I would like our fans to know that we tried our best to make Albert a lifetime Cardinal but unfortunately we were unable to make it happen."
Pujols rejected a multiyear extension last offseason that was said to include a small percentage of the franchise. He cut off negotiations on the first day of spring training.
"This is a footprint contract, because it follows the footprint laid by other great players," said agent Scott Boras. "Putting a hitter like Albert Pujols in a big market, where he can be a DH, I think it's a win-win for everybody."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.