No, not the POO-pocalypse- that is what happens after a night of White Castle and Milwaukee’s Best. I said the PU-pocalypse, of which “Cardinal Nation” is in the midst due to Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals not coming to terms on a contract extension by today’s noon deadline.
Now I am the first to admit I really know nothing of the inner workings on pro ballplayers’ contracts, guaranteed salaries, bonuses, various incentive clauses, etc. And I also find it disgusting that ballplayers, Pujols included, are able to command such exorbitantly ridiculous and/or ridiculously exorbitant salaries, especially when the nation’s teachers don’t make squat, but that’s an argument for another time. So allow me to give my mostly ignorant perspective on this whole Albert Pujols contract thing, and forgive the talking out of my backside that likely will occur.
I’m saying up front I don’t understand how MLB contracts work. Deal with it. (Perhaps my brother, whom I consider extraordinarily knowledgeable in most everything baseball, especially for someone not in “the business”, could correct and/or clarify anything I get confused or just plain wrong.)
First of all, Pu’s heart is at least seemingly in the right place [for Cardinal fans] in that he says he wants to stay in St. Louis his entire career. The 10-year deal he seeks would make him 41 when it ends. A lot can happen in that time; you can’t really blame the front office for not agreeing to a 10-year deal- they theoretically could be stuck paying him a lot of money for four years after he’s out of baseball if, by chance and heaven forbid, his elbow finally detaches from his body, or he blows an MCL or something. That’s a big risk- for ANY team. And I know it’s the same monetarily, but there is still a big difference between 7 years/$210MM and 10 years/$300MM. (To be fair, I kinda stole that line from my brother. It just somehow sounds far more intelligent and meaningful coming from him.)
And honestly, you really can’t fault Pujols for wanting [or expecting] to be paid his worth. He is, after all, the best player in the game. Even as completely subjective as that moniker is, it’s difficult to argue against it. Seeing the deals that guys like A-Rod, Ryan Howard, and numerous pitchers have gotten in recent years, why shouldn’t Pujols get his due? And again, this is coming from someone who is absolutely nauseated by the amount of money grown men make for playing a child’s game. I just saw a tweet that said that the team’s offer would have only made him about the 10th highest paid player in the league. Even at MLB’s insulting [to us little people] salaries, that is a friggin’ joke. If the Cardinals can’t or won’t pay him what he’s worth, why shouldn’t he play for someone who will? And someone- SOMEONE- will. My guess is that, unless the Cardinals find a way to dump Holliday, Carp, Wainwright, and all their high-priced players so they can pay Pujols, he will wind up wearing the much-despised pinstripes in the Bronx. Yes, I know they have Texeira at first, but the Yankees being the Yankees, they’d likely find somewhere for Pujols to fit. Perhaps platooning him and Tex between 1B-DH or something. Like I said, it’s the Yankees, the “Stack ‘em and Rack ‘em” team of Major League Baseball. Boston MAY be a possibility, given their nearly bottomless checkbook, but I honestly see the Yankees as the only team that can realistically afford to pay him what he wants. Wants, deserves, whatever. Same diff. In terms of “real people” money, he doesn’t deserve a fraction of that, but in terms of MLB players [and teams] money, he deserves every bit of that and more.
Truth be told, even as a Cardinal fan, if the Cardinals can’t keep him, I’d actually MUCH rather see him play future home games at Wrigley than at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees represent everything I hate about baseball (and sports in general) and I can’t in good conscience root for anyone that wears their uniform, whether or not he’s the best player in the league, and whether or not he spent his first 10 seasons on the team I support. It’s the friggin’ Yankees. The Evil Empire. The “Yes, we have 27 championships- bought and paid for” team. (I know, I know; but I simply loathe the Yankees.) If he makes $300MM playing for any other team in MLB, it’s at least comparatively okay. If he makes $300MM playing for the Yankees, he will have sold out and I will have no choice but to hate him with every fiber of my being. It’s my rationalization; let me go with it.
Anyway, if the Cardinals do somehow find a way to keep Pujols and give him the money he wants and deserves, there’s no realistic way they can field any sort of quality team around him in order to be a legitimate contender. They won’t be able to afford anyone else [of any real worth]. Carpenter would be gone, Wainwright would be gone, Holliday would be gone, even that little princess Jim Edmonds would be gone. Great CF in his prime, Jimmy E was, but I just don’t get the excitement Cardinals fans felt in the team signing him. Again. Anyway, it’ll be pretty difficult for Pujols to win a championship essentially by himself. He is the best player in the league right now, but even HE isn’t that good.
The biggest thing that gets me with this whole Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals Deathclock Watch thing is watching posts and tweets from Cardinals “fans”. Cheese is rice, folks… what’s with all the doom and gloom? Rare nowadays is the superstar, HoF-caliber player that stays on the same team their entire career. Last one I can think of without really thinking about it would be Cal Ripken. The Cardinals have him for 2011, let’s just let him play while he’s here, and when the season is over and the real crunch time to re-sign him comes, THEN we can pucker our sphincters.
But even if he does leave… life. Goes. On. Baseball in St. Louis will not end just because #5 leaves. You all call yourselves the “Greatest Fans In Baseball™” (a term I once used frequently but now despise hearing); if that’s true, you will be sad that he is gone, as will I, hope he continues his amazing career, as will I, but continue to faithfully support the Cardinals. As will I. If you no longer root for the Cardinals because Pujols leaves, you’re not a Cardinals fan. If your loyalties can change that easily, I can’t even call you a baseball fan.
I am a fan of the game, first and foremost, and a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals second. What benefits the game as a whole typically means more to me than what benefits just my team. That said, I have been a lifelong Cardinals fan, since the first game my dad took me to in the Concrete Doughnut more than 35 years ago. I lived and died by Jack Buck’s voice on the radio for every game for which I wasn’t in attendance. Hearing “That’s a winner!” was a big highlight of my youth, adolescence, and adulthood. And let us not forget JFB’s “Go crazy, folks!” when Ozzie hit that homerun in the ’85 NLCS.
I was there (here and henceforth meaning “as a fan”) when the ’82 team won the Series. I was there for Gibson. Brock. Templeton grabbing his crotch. Ozzie. Willie. Whitey. Vince getting eaten by the tarp. Bruce. Forsch’s first no-hitter (the first one at the Doughnut, for the record). Seaver no-hitting the Cardinals later that season. Forsch’s second no-hitter. Valenzuela no-hitting the Cardinals. Jiménez’ no-hitter, in which he beat Randy Johnson 1-0, and, if memory serves, the only hit Johnson gave up that day was the winning home run. Bud Smith’s no-hitter. (Who?!) McGwire. The rise, downfall, re-rise, and re-downfall of Rick Ankiel. Hollywood Jimmy E. And of course, El Hombre. I was there when the ’04 team got embarrassingly swept by the Red Sox. I was there when the ’06 team redeemed that Series by beating the Tigers.
I was also there supporting those atrociously abysmal Cardinals teams of some of those seasons from the mid-to-late 80s to the early-to-mid 90s. I felt the sting when the ’85 team lost to the Royals. (Don’t get me started on you people that STILL blame Denkinger for the Cardinals losing the Series that year. Let it go.) I saw the Cardinals and Cubs swap numerous players over the years- and, in recent years, occasionally do takebacksies. I was there when Jocketty made that abomination of a trade for Mark Mulder. I was thrilled when LaRussa first came to manage the Cardinals, and I will be even more thrilled when his completely off the deep end, wiggity-whack ass finally leaves.
The point is, regardless of the good or the bad, I have been a Cardinals fan forever, and forever will be. Life- and baseball- will go on in Busch Stadium whether Albert Pujols is there or not. It may not be nearly as electrifying, and perhaps not for a long while, but it will go on. Get a grip, people. Perhaps we all got so used to seeing #5 blast 30+ homeruns each year and rack up 100 RBI every year but one that we never dreamed the day Pujols is no longer a Cardinal could possibly arrive. Well, it’s quite possible that, at least by this time next year, that day actually will arrive. Y’all better check ya self before ya wreck ya self.
Anyway, thanks for indulging me, and I apologize again for not being knowledgeable enough to accurately delve into the facts and figures of the negotiations, but I just felt I needed to try to make the “Greatest Fans In Baseball™” [wink wink] understand that, while painful, losing Pujols will not destroy your life. Actually, if it does, you’ve got much bigger problems.