Tonight, Albert Pujols will play a game in Busch Stadium for the first time since heading west after the 2011 season.

It should be a pleasant reunion. There’s very little bad blood between Pujols and the organization or the fan base. He left town a conquering hero and returns a shell of his former self.

Pujols’ decline was precipitous after leaving St. Louis. In seven seasons with the Angels, he hasn’t finished higher than 17th in the AL MVP voting. During his 11-year run with the Cards, he never finished lower than fifth in the NL MVP race.

He’s made only one All-Star Game in the AL. He made 10 with the Cardinals, shockingly being snubbed in 2002. He has no Gold Gloves or Silver Sluggers in L.A. He had two and six, respectively, in St. Louis.

By some measures, he’s been one of the game’s worst players in recent years. He ranks near the bottom of the league in many advanced metrics. He’s slow. He’s doesn’t hit for average or get on base much. He still has some pop, but that’s about it. As the folk song goes: The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be.

Of course, this is no surprise. It happens to all of us. Father Time catches up, and our ability to perform certain tasks the way we did in our younger days is lessened. Pujols is experiencing this natural decline publicly while collecting more than $25 million a year.

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Even so, Pujols is etching his name into baseball’s history books. Entering Thursday, he had 645 home runs, 3,133 hits and 2,021 RBIs. He’s under contract for two more years, and even with his declining ability, he’s going to play while healthy. His final career numbers will almost certainly be astronomical when considered as a whole.

If the attraction of seeing Pujols back in Busch isn’t enough of a draw, that’s OK, he’s bringing a friend. Mike Trout, the undisputed best player in baseball.

When Pujols joined the Angels in 2012, it was Trout who exploded onto the scene. Since that moment, he’s had no clear peer in the game.

Trout is the Pujols of this generation, and the 27-year-old is still improving. In fact, he’s in the midst of what may be his best season to date. Every year, it’s the same thing. Trout somehow improves on his previous dominant season.

This is bad news for the Cardinals, especially considering Trout is on a bit of a tear recently, even by his lofty standards. Still, this is a great opportunity for Cardinals fans.

With the Angels on the West Coast, it can be tough to keep up with Pujols and Trout. Not this weekend, though. They’ll be right in front of Cardinals Nation.

Sounds like a wonderful weekend to me. Mixing a whole lot of nostalgia with the opportunity to see the “Where were you when Mike Trout came to town?” is a terrific and rare opportunity.

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JEFF WILSON can be reached at jeffreyewilson5@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwilson83.


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