The Albert Pujols Situation
February 21, 2011 Leave a comment
Before we delve deep into the culture of St. Louis sports, it is a requirement that we examine the Albert Pujols situation that has cast a large cloud over the Gateway to the West.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has had arguably the best 10-year start to a baseball career in history. He is the only player in the game’s long history to post 10 consecutive seasons of at least a .300 average, at least 30 home runs, and at least 100 runs batted in. It’s worth repeating: nobody else in the game’s history, not Hank Aaron, not Babe Ruth, not Ted Williams, nobody, has accomplished that. If Albert decided that today was the last day he’d play baseball in his career, you’d be hard pressed to find a baseball writer that wouldn’t vote him into the Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility.
But, this year is a very different year for Pujols and the Cardinals. After this season, Pujols’s seven-year, $100 million contract is set to expire. Before entering Spring Training, Pujols had set a deadline of February 16th to hammer out a contract extension. If an extension wasn’t reached by then, Pujols has stated that would refuse to come back to the negotiating in season to avoid the media circus and distractions that comes with talking money in season. With many in the game predicting Pujols could realistically command a new contract in the range of 10 years, $300 million, the Cardinals were seemingly reluctant to go that long-term for that much money, and the two sides entered camp in Florida without an agreement and an understanding that contract talks would be tabled until the off-season.
However, the baseball community must understand that Pujols’s lack of interest in talking contract in season isn’t his way of saying he wants out of St. Louis. Pujols is a deeply focused baseball player. That focus has lead him to his remarkable career numbers of .331 average (active leader among all eligible Major Leaguers, by the way), 408 home runs, 1.230 runs batted in, .624 slugging percentage, three Most Valuable Player awards, nine All-Star selections and two Gold Gloves. Oh, and he’s just 31 years of age.
By all accounts, Pujols doesn’t want out of St. Louis. Instead, he has so much respect for the game, for his teammates, and for the fans in Cardinal Nation, he doesn’t want to command the spotlight with this trivial contract negotiations. Instead, he’d much rather look to add a second World Series ring, then talk money when he absolutely must at the end of the season.
The odds of Pujols opening the 2012 season playing first base for a team other than the St. Louis Cardinals is miniscule. But, I promise can promise you this.
That won’t stop the media from talking about it.