Why Brandon League Made Albert Pujols Leave The Cardinals

ANAHEIM, CA - Kendry Morales of the Los Angeles Angels celebrates his grand slam homerun to win the game 5-1 over the Seattle Mariners during the bottom of the ninth inning at Angel Stadium. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

More than a few Cardinals fans are angry with Albert Pujols leaving for a huge contract from the Angels, but they should really be upset with the closer for the Seattle Mariners.

On May 29, 2010, Brandon League threw a 95-m.p.h. fastball on the outside part of the plate. On December 8, 2011, Albert Pujols left the St. Louis Cardinals. These two events are intimately related.

The League fastball was thrown to Kendrys Morales, who crushed it for a game-winning grand slam. The bases were loaded after Maicer Izturis doubled, Bobby Abreu was walked intentionally, and Chone Figgins made an error. If Abreu weren't walked intentionally, things might be different. If the Angels re-sign Chone Figgins, things might be different. Don't worry, though, Mariners fans: no one is taking Figgins away from you. This is all just hypothetical.

But the bases were loaded. And League did throw the exact pitch he had to. If Rob Johnson called for a breaking ball, Albert Pujols might have returned to the Cardinals. If League were sweating just a little bit more, his grip might have been a little less secure. Maybe if he went to the rosin bag one more time. Maybe if he went to the rosin bag one fewer time.

Kendrys Morales hit a grand slam on that pitch, and then he fractured his leg when he jumped on home plate to celebrate. That pitch is the reason that Albert Pujols signed a 10-year, $250 million contract on Thursday. Well, it is if you make some major assumptions, but follow me down the rabbit hole.

The first assumption is that the Angels wouldn't have pursued Albert Pujols if Morales were healthy and productive. That's not necessarily true. It's not like the Angels were committed to filling their first-base hole with the best-available free agent and, say, turns out the best-available guy was pretty good. No, Pujols was a target because of his name, his brand, his marketing cache. The Angels know that Pujols already is one of the greatest hitters of all time, and that his name on the back of jerseys, and said in a baritone voice promoting Angels broadcasts, are things that will help make back some of what they're giving to him. They could have gone after Pujols regardless.

But $250 million is an unbelievable commitment, and Morales was cheap. The Angels certainly could have signed Pujols and stuck Morales at DH, or even traded him, but there's a psychological factor. The Angels were willing to replace Mark Trumbo because he was a rookie with an OBP under .300, but Morales could have been an entrenched star by now. When you're looking at a roster, trying to fill in holes, players like what Morales was supposed to be are the kind of players you instantly gloss over before focusing on the actual problems.

My crystal ball says the Angels would have been interested in a new face of the franchise, but the Cardinals would still have Pujols. It's a big assumption. The Marlins signed a shortstop when they already had one, thinking they would figure it out later. The Angels could have done the same.

The second assumption is that Morales isn't made from construction paper and paste, and that he wouldn't have broken down eventually. He fractured his leg by jumping. It was a freak accident -- the exact wrong angle with just enough pressure -- but it's still a sign that Morales wasn't destined to be an iron man.

But I'm a chaos theory guy. I saw the trailer for Butterfly Effect with the sound off, and I think I know what it was getting at. I think that if Morales were healthy, the Angels were out of the Pujols derby. And if the Angels were out, I'd wager that the Cardinals were the only other team that had a shot.

So some Cardinals fans are angry at Pujols for taking the money, which is their right. Some are angry at the Angels for making the huge commitment. Those aren't exactly logical targets for anger, but Cards fans still have a few stages of the Kübler-Ross model to go. But if they really want someone to be mad at, they can focus on that horrible Brandon League and his stupid 95-m.p.h. fastball with movement. It's his fault. Blame him.

And if Chone Figgins holds on to the ball and gets the out at first, maybe the Angels still win the game, but it sure wouldn't have gone down exactly like it did. In a way, you could say that the Angels acquired Pujols in a three-way trade over several seasons, by first sending Figgins to the Mariners. Now Mariners get the privilege of watching one of baseball's greatest players over and over and over again! And over and over and over again, for dozens and dozens of games over the next decade! How lucky, how truly lucky, they must feel! The Figgins contract sort of paid for itself right there, if it hadn't already!

No one expected Pujols to leave, but after an insane, over-the-top offer, he's gone. And for a team to make that insane, over-the-top offer, Brandon League had to throw a pitch. Kendrys Morales had to hit that pitch, and he had to have the right number of endorphins going to say, "Think I'll jump on this here plate in excitement." Everything had to fall in place. Don't feel too bad, Cardinals fans. It's just that the universe hates you. That's all.

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