The impact of MLB’s spending spree on Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals, Part II

Going back to Jayson Stark’s comments, I don’t like where he’s going with the honor and humbled statement.  Should those not be factors at all?  It’s not as if the Cardinals have stars that get screwed out of a lavish lifestyle.  The Cardinals have fans all around the country for a reason.  I like to think it’s a combination of players knowing they have a chance to win and getting paid at the same time.   The Cardinals are 2nd to only the Yankees in WS wins (yes, a distant second), and I think that has to account for something.  If you’re going to pay a man a record salary to put the best National League team in the history of MLB on his back for the next 8-10 years, you would hope there is some honor in it.  “I’m talking about tradition.” as M. Emmet Walsh said in movie Brubaker.

I get it that you are not going to see star players like Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle living in an apartment together with another teammate.  Trying to compare the best baseball player today with the best baseball player 60 years ago is, well, tough.  Times have changed, I get that.

The only problem with defending Pujols here is that the game has only changed in ways that benefit the players.  Take a look at these comments from Mr. Musial from this interview from 1992:

Had an agent, but not for game

On the business side of the game, Musial said he was ahead of his time. He had an agent as far back as the 1940s. But the man was not hired to negotiate Musial’s salary. Musial was widely regarded as an easy-going person and someone who found most salary offers to his liking.

“The agent handled endorsements for me and Ted Williams and Sam Snead. We’d pick up an extra twenty-five to thirty thousand a year from these things.”

Musial saw no need for help with the simple process of negotiating his annual salary.

“It seems like everyone is in a business manner today. Too serious. We relaxed and had fun. The means of travel was slower and we spent a lot of time together on trains. I always got along fine in salary discussions with the Cardinals.

“In 1957 they asked me what I wanted and I told them that Ralph Kiner was the highest paid guy in the league at $90,000, so I wanted $91,000. But Gussie Busch wanted me to be the first $100,000-a-year player, so they gave me that.”

Today, someone like Chicago Cubs’ second baseman Ryne Sandberg makes $7 million annually and some old-time baseball players, and current fans, think these salaries are outrageous. Musial thinks that might not be too far out of line. He bases this on a recent conversation with California Angels’ owner Gene Autry, who told Musial — a career .331 hitter — that if Stan the Man were playing today he would be making a million dollars a month.

Well, spring training covers March. The regular season comprises six months and creeps into October, fairly deep into October if a team gets to the World Series. That’s more than seven months.

At a million per month, that would put Musial’s salary today in the neighborhood of $7 million a year. There’s little doubt at least one team owner would offer Stan Musial a contract like that today.

And he still wouldn’t need an agent.

……..I take a couple of things from this.  One, if in 1992 fans and former players thought that $7 million per year for the best player was outrageous, what do they think now?  Two, Musial saw no need for help with the simple process of negotiating his annual salary.  You can point to things from this interview that suggest baseball has not changed, in that Musial wanted to be paid more than the highest paid player in the game, by $1000, if you want to.  In no way do I think that we can compare thousands of dollars in 1957 to hundreds of millions of dollars today though. 

There are a lot of other opinions out there about Pujols and his next contract.  Maybe it really is just billionaires fighting against millionaires.  Maybe Stan Musial and his days are completely irrelevant, we shouldn’t expect players to comprehend the life of average fans or the economy, and Albert Pujols is in a class all by himself even among the games best players.

I know it would be refreshing if Albert Pujols put a dent in the opinions of all the experts that think the Cardinals have to top A-Rod’s salary.  Like I said in Part 1, it’s going to be hard for the Cardinals to stay competitive even if they sign him to a bargain.  Is it as important to Pujols to get paid as the games best player or that everyone knows he should get paid as the games best player?  Talking about being naïve, I think I’m heading there now.

As a Cardinal fan, I want to think there is some honor and humbleness in playing for the Cardinals.  What would it say about the Cardinals organization and Albert Pujols if he took less to stay in a place that he’s loved?  Would that help us recruit other players in the future by sending them a message that there is something about playing for the Cardinals?  How bad would it upset the fans of the Cubs, agents, and the players union?  Is it worth it to Pujols to say that he is the greatest Cardinal of all-time?  How about Pujols having a baseball home for the rest of his life?  Right now, as far as the greatest Cardinals, I would have to put him 3rd behind Rogers Hornsby and Stan Musial.

Part 3 is coming tomorrow…

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