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Angels releasing Albert Pujols in final year of decade-long contract

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Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols is being released by the Los Angeles Angels, the team announced on Thursday. The news was first reported by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. 

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Pujols is officially being designated for assignment, which means he's being immediately removed from the team's 40-man roster as a prelude to his eventual release. No reason has been given by the Angels or Pujols himself, but it may stem from an incident that reportedly happened on Wednesday. 

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In a statement, Angels owner Arte Moreno praised Pujols' dedication both on and off the field. 

"The Angels Organization proudly signed Albert Pujols in 2011, and are honored that he has worn an Angels jersey for nearly half of his Hall-of-Fame Career. Albert's historical accomplishments, both on and off the field, serve as an inspiration to athletes everywhere, and his actions define what it means to be a true Superstar. Since his Rookie of the Year Season in 2001, Albert and his wife Deidre have generously given their time and resources to countless charities throughout the world. We are thankful to the entire Pujols Family."

End of an era

Pujols, 41, is in the final year of the 10-year, $253 million contract that drew him away from the only other team he ever played for, the St. Louis Cardinals. Primarily a first baseman and later a designated hitter, Pujols is a titan of the game who has spent 21 seasons (including 2021) in the majors, a mainstay who was the undisputed best player in the National League, if not the whole of MLB, for nearly a decade. 

Debuting in 2001, he earned All-Star honors in his very first season, and went on to win NL Rookie of Year. That was just the beginning. He'd go on to win three NL MVP awards (2005, 2008, 2009) and finish in the top three of MVP voting four times. He won six Silver Slugger awards, two Gold Glove awards, and was an All-Star 10 times. 

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - APRIL 30: Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels in action against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on April 30, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Albert Pujols, a titan of the game, is being released by the Angels. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Over 21 seasons, Pujols has hit .298/.376/.545 with 3,253 hits (13th all-time), 667 home runs (5th all-time), and 2,112 RBIs (3rd all-time). He spent the first 11 years of his career, arguably his prime, with the Cardinals, hitting .328/.420/.617. He was going into his age-32 season when he signed that enormous contract with the Angels, and from 2012 through his last time in the Angels lineup on May 4, he hit .256/.311/.447. 

Regardless of which team he was playing for, Pujols was remarkably durable. In the 19 full seasons he played (not counting 2021 or the pandemic-shortened 2020), he played fewer than 140 games just three times. He didn't miss significant time until his 12th season, and up until then had played an average of 154 games every year. 

As most baseball players do, Pujols experienced a slide in his later career. But in his prime he was one of the greatest hitters of all-time, and is expected to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. While his profile has lessened in recent years as younger players have come to the forefront, he remains one of the most respected players in the game. 

Pujols' release signals the true end of an era in baseball. The 2000 season was the last time he wasn't on a major league roster. Baseball without him will take some getting used to. 

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