Albert Pujols Could Surpass LeBron James as Most Vilified Sports Star in America

Albert Pujols Could Surpass LeBron James as Most Vilified Sports Star in AmericaDALLAS – LeBron James is finally off the hook. After enduring the yearlong vitriol for bolting Cleveland for South Beach, the Miami Heat forward has been replaced as America’s villain.

Enter Albert Pujols. By accepting a 10-year, $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday morning, the slugger spurned the St. Louis Cardinals –– his team for 11 seasons –– and planted seeds of hate nationwide.

Unlike James, Pujols didn’t change uniforms for a championship. Just two months ago, the first baseman returned to the apex of Major League Baseball, edging the Texas Rangers in Game 7 to win his second World Series title.

No, this “decision” was motivated by the green, the paper, the cash, the dough, the moolah, the dinero — or as its most commonly referred to, the money. And in the end, the Dominican native earned the right to go that route.

Regardless of these next 10 years, Pujols has established himself as one of the best hitters in baseball history. With two World Series titles, nine All-Star appearances, three MVP trophies, 445 homers and 1,329 RBIs in his 11-year career, no one can argue.

What is debatable, though, is his comparison to James in history. At the time of their decisions, both were athletes at the top of their sport, both were in high demand and both were iconic individuals in their communities.

Although James handled his decision terribly –– he announced it during a one-hour TV special –– the decision itself was an honest admission that he needed help. He paired up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to improve his chance at capturing a title.

With this situation, Pujols doesn’t have an excuse. Despite the retirement of former manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals were still returning the bulk of the World Series-winning team, a roster more than capable of spearheading another run.

So it’s easy to sympathize with St. Louis reliever Kyle McClellan, who was disappointed with the decision.

“That’s all we can do, move on,” McClellan told the Associated Press. “It’s part of the game, free agency, and everybody knew that Albert leaving was a possibility. We just came off winning the World Series, so that shows we’ve got a pretty good team.”

Either way, it’s time to acknowledge that James deserves a slight pass moving forward. Sure, the national scorn was absolutely warranted for his TV breakup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But I’d rather someone dump me on national TV for being a bad boyfriend than praise me for being a good boyfriend only to dump me for the rich boyfriend.