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Albert Pujols returns to St. Louis

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Tonight the Angels open up a three-game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis. And that means that Albert Pujols will play his first game at Busch Stadium since leaving his former team for Los Angeles via free agency following the 2011 season.

While it stung the Cardinals to lose one of the greatest players in their history, time seems to have healed whatever wounds existed at the time. Part of that is because, hey, how can you do anything but thank Pujols for helping the Cards win two World Series while collecting three MVP awards in his 11 years in St. Louis? Part of is because, not to put too fine a point on it, Pujols’ post-2011 production has made not re-signing him to a big money deal look like a pretty smart play. I think Cards fans miss him, but I’ve never met one who has any real hard feelings about him going.

To the extent there ever were wounds, though, they were never really that deep to begin with. As Will Leitch notes in his story about Pujols’ return, Cardinals fans were resigned to him leaving before the 2011 World Series was already over. Thinking they were about to lose Game 6 — the David Freese game — Cards fans gave Pujols multiple standing ovations, believing that they were about to see the last of the guy in their home colors. The Cards rallied, of course, won Game 7 and the World Series, and Pujols left on the highest of possible notes. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Now he returns. At least on the field. Off the field he’s never really left, as MLB.com’s Jennifer Langosch details in this excellent story about Pujols’ connection to the city which made him famous. Most notably from a philanthropy perspective and the work of the Pujols Family Foundation which began in St. Louis and remains rooted there even if it now has a worldwide reach. So it’s a big return, yes, but only in a very narrow way.

In light of all of that, I’d bet the house on a long, loud, and possibly even teary-eyed standing ovation when Pujols’ name is announced before his first plate appearance tonight. It’ll be quite the scene, I’m sure.

Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season

Kopech has opted out
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Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season. The White Sox starter informed the team of his decision today, and the team issued a press release to that affect a few minutes ago.

The statement from general manager Rick Hahn. said “we recognize that reaching this decision is incredibly difficult for any competitive athlete, and our organization is understanding and supportive. We will work with Michael to assure his development continues throughout 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back into our clubhouse for the 2021 season.”

Kopech, 24, has only four big league starts under his belt, all coming in late August and early September of 2018, but after a strong spring training he was likely to make Chicago’s rotation at some point in the 2020 season after sitting out all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery. Kopech was among the players sent to Chicago from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade back in December 2016. Others involved in the deal included Yoán Moncada, Victor Diaz, and Luis Alexander Basabe.

Now, however, Kopech has opted out.