I hesitate to make this post. It is a little more personal than I like to get. Well, if you are going to be a writer then sometimes you have to put it out there, right?
I will disclose up front that the majority of my knowledge regarding the upcoming subject is based almost entirely upon what I have read on major news sights and syndicated sports writers columns. However, as a casual observer of baseball outside of the greater Anaheim metropolitan area, and a father of two impressionable young daughters, I have an opinion of the Albert Pujols affair.
By all accounts Mr. Pujols is one of the nice guys, the good guys, if you will, of baseball. He does not make headlines outside of the game. He is not linked to steroids nor do you hear about off field escapades. Mr. Pujols does much for the community and gives back significantly the riches his skill set has afforded him. In a word, commendable. Additionally, his career numbers to this point are, as quoted by multiple baseball folks smarter than me, “first ballot hall of fame.”
Albert Pujols has also stated that he wants to stay in the only city that he has ever known as a professional baseball player. So when he says that he wants to complete a contract extension prior to the season? Absolutely! The last thing that you want is that eight hundred pound gorilla hanging around your locker room for the entire season……in other news: The St. Louis Cardinals signed an eight hundred pound gorilla just prior to spring training to an undisclosed dollar amount.
I recently came across this quote in a Tom Verducci column:
“Albert is not someone who is about the money,” said a baseball source close to Pujols. “He has enough and his charitable work is amazing. He has flown doctors and dentists to the Dominican to give kids there access to health care. But he is someone with intense pride. He has worked hard to turn himself into the best hitter in baseball and he’s earned the right to be treated that way in negotiations. It’s not about greed with Albert. I think it’s pride.”
Really? He requires the salary to satisfy his pride? I am generally not one to put too much credence into single source reporting, but this is not single source. There have been multiple reports that say basically the same thing: Albert wants the salary that recognizes his current status as the greatest hitter playing baseball. If he really wants to stay in St. Louis then why does getting paid three hundred million dollars over ten years matter? He will have just gotten done making well over one hundred million on the current contract at the end of this season, not including incentives and endorsements. Once you are a millionaire that many times over does it matter? Three hundred million for ten years versus, say for arguments sake, two hundred million for seven years. Who cares! This is on top of the hundred million plus you have already made!
Albert’s words state that he wants to be a Cardinal for life. Albert’s actions state otherwise, he wants monetary confirmation he is the best in baseball. Apparently, his ridiculous numbers are not argument enough. If the Cards pay what he is asking, who will play around him? You cannot win with one uber paid mega star surrounded by a farm team. Ask the Rangers how that worked out for them. If some team is stupid enough to give him ten years at thirty per, paying him into his forties, then his words were just that: words.
Albert Pujols has passed up a golden opportunity to be one of the truly great good guys of baseball. He could have taken another home team discount, which would have paid him many more millions yet again. That would have been good for the team, good for the city of St. Louis, and good for some of the best baseball fans in the country. A home team discount allows the Cardinals to put a team around Mr. Pujols and make them dangerously competitive every season. A home team discount allows Mr. Pujols to go down in history….HISTORY….as one of the true baseball greats that set records, and stayed true to himself, his team, and his city.
But it is no longer about the fans or city of St. Louis. Now, it is about the contract that Ryan Howard just signed with the Phillies. It is about the contract that Alex Rodriguez signed with the Rangers and later the Yankees. In this day and age, your greatness is not measured by statistics, but by the size of your contract.
To bring this diatribe to a full circle closing, I am the father of two young daughters. My oldest is ten years old and has already told me she wants to play baseball, not softball. Her favorite players have been Garret Anderson and Torii Hunter. It makes it hard for me as a father to preach the team concept when money so obviously takes precedence, when you have players saying they support the team, but they have to do what is right for them. Yeah, not everyone makes the multi millions, and this is not meant to be an indictment of all players. I believe the majority are happy to play the game and earn an above average living. However, according to the MLBPA homepage frequently asked questions section, the average player salary in 2009 was $2,996,106 and the league minimum in the same year was $400,000. Not too bad considering the state of the national economy today. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a U.S. Marine Captain with thirteen years of service; you can Google my base salary. It is difficult for me to relate to or understand this multi million dollar problem set.
A scathing review of one player in one situation? Perhaps. Mr. Pujols and the Cardinals may come to an agreement at some point that works for both sides and the icon stays put. And really, who am I but just your average fan on the outside looking in? I look for actions though, not words. This is how I currently see it from my sub $400,000 per year vantage point.
OTHER THOUGHTS AND NOTES:
Since this is an Angel’s blog, I should finish off with some Halo’s talk. It is refreshing to see our veteran beat writer Lyle Spencer dishing out updates at the cyclic rate. How hard it must be to spend spring in Arizona, talking daily to Angels of past, present, and future, and getting paid to boot? Blogging has made me realize just how hard it is to write on a regular basis, but I have to say I envy the guy with the access he has.
I really like Hank Conger. From all I have read and seen, he has a level head, an intelligent approach, and the capacity to run the field from behind home plate. I know Mike Scioscia is constantly high on Jeff Mathis, but Jeff has to know if he does not consistently produce his days are numbered. Competition is a good thing, and I have Hank as a dark horse candidate to break the opening day roster.
Sketchy reports indicate Brandon Wood worked on his hitting this winter with folks that do not wear Angels red during the regular season. Regardless of the validity of this, I hope the kid shakes off whatever rally monkey camped on his back all last season. No longer the minted future at third, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. I still say he should be given a look at short, his natural position and less pressure to produce power numbers.
Crazy long post, but if you’ve made it this far, I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts. Looking forward to opening day!