As we attempt to corner the market on Pujols-related commentary, Johnny adds his thoughts on the topic.

Pitchers and Catchers are reporting … we are headed into the upcoming baseball season as the NFL appears to be mired in a circus of doom regarding salaries and collective bargaining agreements, or lack thereof.  But another disagreement regarding salary is looming large on the horizon in Major League Baseball.  The Cardinals current inability to come to terms with Albert Pujols.

No realistic talks have taken place for a few weeks.  The Cardinals are offering 30 million a year for 5 years.  That is some fat money no matter how good you are in baseball terms.  Prince Albert is allegedly looking for a bit more security and wants 10 years in a new contract, to the tune of about 300 million.

There have been some other large contracts recently in the majors that after the fact never seem to look all that good.  Pedro Martinez signed for humongous cash and promptly put two to three epic years on the mound, but then injuries and age caught him quicker than anyone could have imagined.

Most people point out the ridiculous contract that was penned by Alex Rodriguez, both in terms of numbers of years and also total amount of money.  Can any one player live up to that type of value?  For the type of money and length of contract that is being desired by Pujols, the Cardinals could instead get 3 major impact players for the ballclub.  So … why would they want to sign him for this type of money?

In the age of Free Agency, few players are the face of the franchise like Pujols currently is.  A few others come to mind.  Derek Jeter of the Yankees, Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies, Ichiro of the Mariners … and I am sure there are others.  But most any player that starts out on a small market team does not stay there long.  The money is too great and there is always the deep pockets of teams like the Red Sox and Yankees ready to pony up the funds to bring in some guns for hire.  Signing Pujols long term means you are paying a premium to keep him around as the centerpiece of your St Louis Cardinals, where you plan on having him stay.

Pujols also has numbers to back up getting a ridiculous contract.  Ten straight years of hitting over .300 and knocking in over 100 runs.  That is something even Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig cannot claim to have done.  Pujols is at the top of the list for doing this and is still in his prime.  He has endured this streak through injuries and is perennially among conversations involving the Triple Crown. (leading the league in Batting Average, Homers and Runs Batted In)  The last player to win a triple crown was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 as he single handedly propelled the Red Sox into the World Series where they lost to … guess who … yep, the same Cardinals.  Stats Like these with Pujols don’t lie, he is worthy of the largest contract in the league.

The flip side is he is 10 years into his career.  At what point does he start to decline?  Will injuries continue to creep into his playing time?  Can he keep this up forever?  What does a contract like this do to the ability to sign other good players in the competitive National League Central?

These are all questions that the Cardinals organization as well as the fans of St Louis need to be taking into consideration.  The good news for the Cardinals is it is late in the game.  I am not sure at this stage when teams have restructured their contracts and loaded up in Free Agency that they could pay Albert the type of money he is looking for either.  To me it seems like we are witnessing a real world game of chicken, albeit for a lot of money … and the key to playing chicken you gotta know when the other guy is going to flinch.

Stay Classy St Louis!


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Johnny Goodman writes a weekly sports column for The Soap Boxers. His articles can be found in The Goodman File.

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