A year ago Albert Pujols began his first season with the Angels with 240 million reasons to have a great year, and 240 million reasons why it could never be great enough.
In the first year of his 10-year, $240 million contract, Pujols carried the weight of unimaginable expectations on his shoulders. Add that to the fact that he was trying to learn new teammates in a new league, while being away from his family, and it's easy to see how Pujols ended up with the worst season of his career.


Which was, by the way, still pretty good.
Now, as Pujols embarks on Year 2 with the Angels, who open the season on Monday in Cincinnati, the natural question is whether a more comfortable Pujols returns to his superstar form, or if last season was the start of his inevitable decline.
"My expectation," said General Manager Jerry Dipoto, "is that he continues to be Albert Pujols. He's a remarkable guy. He really is. He's a great person. His work ethic is unquestionable. He's a quiet leader. And he still swings a huge bat."
Huge is a relative term, of course. In 2012, Pujols hit .285 with 30 homers and 105 RBI. He was one of only 12 players in the majors to combine 30 homers and 100 RBI. That certainly qualifies as a huge bat.
On the other hand, Pujols' batting average, on-base percentage (.343) and slugging percentage (.516) were all career lows. It took him a strong second half to even get his numbers that high after he began the season hitting .194 with zero homers through the first five weeks.
"I don't think we saw the Albert Pujols in April that we ended up seeing as the season went on," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he's acclimated to the pitching a little better as far as coming to a new league. I think he's comfortable in his surroundings. I expect him to have a better April than he did last year for sure."
Pujols, 33, acknowledged that he pressed early in the season to try to live up to the responsibility of his new contract. When the team slumped, too, he took on even more pressure, and things spiraled downward. But he never lost faith in himself.