I’ve been saying for quite a while now that Albert Pujols was not going to sign with the Cardinals. This comes as no surprise to me. I think today was a bright spot for the future of the St. Louis Cardinals, and I’m going to explain why. I’ve heard a lot of thoughts from Cardinals fans today on the radio, from friends, and baseball experts. It seems the blame is split equally among fans who are upset at Albert and fans who are upset at the Cardinals. In my opinion, Albert Pujols has said too many things over the years to cut him any slack. The first couple that come to mind are “It’s not all about the money”, “It’s all about winning championships”, “I want to do everything possible to remain a Cardinal for the rest of my career”, and “I don’t want my contract to be a distraction to my teammates”.
Well, it’s seems that none of those quotes really hold any water. Put simply, Pujols is on a team that has a chance to win plenty of championships. He’s been to the playoffs with the Cardinals 6 times in 10 years, been to 2 World Series, and won one. As far as his contract being a distraction for his teammates, well, Pujols just made sure that will happen. In every city the Cardinals visit this year, Pujols and his contract will be the topic. His teammates will be bombarded with questions, as every reporter looks to make news from any kind of sound bite possible. Rumors will surround the Cardinals all year, from possible trading partners (which he will veto any trade to, yet the questions will come), to what team Pujols will play for in 2012.
I think what most people need to realize is that Albert Pujols is the one who put the pressure on the Cardinals. He set the deadline. He moved up the deadline. He said he would not accept a trade to any team during the season, invoking his 10 and 5 rights. Pujols and his agent, Dan Lozano, came to the Cardinals with a 10 year, $300 million demand and were not willing to negotiate. It appears the Cardinals were willing to make Pujols the 2nd highest paid player in the game. Reports are out that the deal was worth somewhere between $200 and $240 million, and either one would have put him ahead of every player in MLB not named Alex Rodriguez. So as I see it, being a Cardinal for life is not as important as being the highest paid player in the game. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.
Tony LaRussa tried to step in the other day and take some of the pressure off of the Pujols camp by saying that the player’s union is putting the pressure on Pujols to set the market. I actually believe that might be the case, but again, if being a Cardinal and money aren’t the most important things, then why aren’t we sitting here talking about Albert Pujols being a Cardinal past 2011? The reason is because it is about the money. You’ll hear the Pujols camp try to avoid using the word money, instead using “respect” and “market value”. I think better words to use are pride and greed.
Albert Pujols wants the best of both worlds. He wants all the fans to believe he is a humble and common man, and at the same time wants the Cardinals to hand him the keys to the city. He wanted the Cardinals to write him a blank check so he could go on talking about it being all about the Cardinals, the fans, winning championships, and being a Cardinal for life like Stan Musial. Sorry Albert, it’s not going to happen. The reason it’s not going to happen is because of what the top 10 players on your Baseball-Reference.com site all have in common, in that they started to go downhill after around the ages of 35 and 36. I’ll get into more of that in the next couple of days. The Cardinals have a commitment to the fans, and that is to build a winner. They tried to do that in negotiating with Pujols. Maybe there are some fans out there that feel it’s more important to watch you finish your career as a Cardinal, no matter what the cost, and put that above the team staying in contention. I am not one of them.
While I get into more thoughts over the next few days as more information leaks about the negotiations, all I can say right now is that I’m looking forward to the 2011 season. I hope Albert Pujols wins the Triple Crown and the Cardinals win the World Series. The Cardinals have won 10 World Series Championships, and Albert Pujols has been a member of one of them. The Cardinals will win many more championships without Albert Pujols.
Today was a bright spot for the future of the St. Louis Cardinals. They will not be tied into a deal that forces them to make hard decisions in the future in losing rising stars like Adam Wainwright and Colby Rasmus to name a few, and Chris Carpenter will be around for 2012. The Cardinals realize they have received the best years from Albert Pujols, and that his decline will start sometime in the middle of his next contract at best. So for that, I want to say thank you to Albert Pujols for pricing himself out of the St. Louis market.