St. Louis is still in mourning after the Cardinals lost Albert Pujols for 4-6 weeks with a non-displaced fracture of his radius (a bone in the forearm). After being pulled off first base by a throw, Pujols reached out his left arm in an attempt to tag out the baserunner. It was a bang-bang play, with runner Wilson Betemit having no opportunity to avoid the collision (nor was he under the obligation to do so). Although there hasn’t been the furor that followed the Buster Posey injury (should baseball ban home plate collisions?), the NY York Times has suggested a double bag at first base.  This seems like a rather silly idea to me, as all it would really do is force the first baseball to slide over another step before reaching out for a tag.  It’s worth noting that Betemit didn’t run into the body of Pujols, but into his arm.

The Cardinals have remained in the hunt in the NL Central this year despite being snake bitten by some injury.  Co-ace Adam Wainwright went down for the season during spring training, and Matt Holliday has lost time due to an injury and an appendectomy.  I do think the Cardinals can at least stay within striking distance until Pujols returns.

The big question is how this will affect Pujols’ status as the top free agent in the class.  Already, we had been hearing some murmurs that Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder – 4 years younger – might actually be a better option for a team needing an elite first baseman.  (I’m not sold on Fielder – his ability to keep his weight under control long term concerns me).  Pujols is going to have about 50 games at the end of the season (plus possible post-season games) to prove that he’s still the Pujols of old.  It seemed unlikely that his demands of a 10 year deal worth $30 million per year were going to be met in any case … but could this create a situation where Pujols signs a one year “prove it” deal rather than signing a longer deal at a lower rate?

In LA, the divorce case of Frank and Jamie McCourt (no, not the Angela’s Ashes guy) lingers on.  The two parties had finally reached an agreement, but it was contingent upon commissioner Bud Selig giving his OK to a new TV rights deal with the LA Fox affiliate.  Under the 17 year deal, Fox would have paid nearly $3 billion.  The deal would have featured $385 million in up front money.  $170 million would have been earmarked (by the divorce settlement) for personal debt and the divorce settlement.  Selig believes that baseball revenue should be used to pay baseball debts, rather than personal debts.

McCourt will likely sue baseball.  Upon buying a team, owners sign an agreement not to sue baseball, so this should be an interesting case.  The courts could rule the agreement unenforceable because of it being unconscionable … but I have a hard time buying into that argument.  It seems more likely that a judge would decide that McCourt had access to adequate legal counsel prior to signing the agreement and then made a conscious choice to sign it.  People sign away their rights all the time – that’s what contracts are used for.

As far as I can tell, the McCourts are still married, as the divorce settlement is still in limbo.  I’m sure that’s not awkward at all.

A potential suitor for the Dodgers would be Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.  Cuban has tried to buy teams before, but Major League Baseball has opposed such a move.  Personally, I think he’d be a good owner.  He does make the headlines from time to time in the NBA, but the fact of the matter is that he puts together good teams.  His “misbehavior” is generally due to the fact that he loves his teams, rather than just seeing them as a business.  It’s a bad thing to have an owner who is actually interested in the report?

It wouldn’t be a baseball article if I didn’t mention my Colorado Rockies.  After struggling mightily in May, the Rockies have rebounded in June and have pulled to with 2.5 games of first place San Francisco.  Last night, an effectively wild Jhoulys Chacin took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.  He walked six and allowed two his in 6 2/3 innings.  Although he didn’t come away with a win (the bullpen allowed the Indians to tie the game before the Rockies rallied to win), Chacin is emerging as one of the better young pitchers in the game.  Chacin actually had a very strong rookie season in 2010 (9-11, but with an impressive 3.28 ERA), but was overshadowed by Ubaldo Jimenez.  With Jimenez struggling this year, Chacin has become the ace, at least for the moment.

Another overlooked Rockies player is catcher Chris Iannetta.  Although his batting average (.229) might trick people into thinking he is having a bad year, Iannetta has actually been one of the most productive offensive catchers this year.   He has 9 homers in just 170 at bats and is among the league leaders with 43 walks.  His OPS of .836 is a very good number for a catcher.

Among the six division leaders, only the NL East’s Phillies (4.5 games ahead) have a lead greater than 2 games.  The Pirates – who haven’t finished above .500 since 1992 – stand at 36-37.  The Marlins have brought Trader Jack McKeon back on board to right the ship.  (I’ll go on record as saying McKeon won’t lead the Marlins to the same miraculous finish as he did in 2003 … you can only pull a rabbit out of the hat so many times).

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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