If you haven’t heard yet, Albert Pujols agreed to a contract with the Angels this morning that will pay him somewhere north of $250 million dollars over ten years, with a no trade clause. It’s sending the predicted shock waves through baseball as the Angels seemingly came out of no where to get this deal done.
You’re going to hear a lot of polarized opinions in the coming days. One side of the argument will be the predictable “Pujols is destroying his legacy by leaving the Cardinals” angle. While the other side will argue that Pujols is just “expressing his right as a businessman and an American.” While I usually tend to lean towards the latter of those two opinions, this is an incredibly unique case. There is no argument there.
Besides Derek Jeter, I can think of no player in the last decade who has come to be a symbol of the franchise more than Albert Pujols. He
is was the St. Louis Cardinals. Not only was he the best player in baseball during that time, but he also won two championships for a club whose payroll isn’t exactly something to brag about.
Over the last seven years, there is no doubt that the St. Louis Cardinals have retained Albert Pujols’ services at an incredible discount. Pujols was signed to a (relatively) low $100 million deal and he far exceeded the value of that contract, not only in his play but also because of the branding the franchise did around him. If you’re Albert Pujols, that had to be the primary argument brought up when trying to get St. Louis to go bigger in this latest discussion. This new contract should have been more about back compensation rather than compensation moving forward.
What’s awkward to point out though is that this is actually a win-win for both parties. Pujols gets his record-breaking contract. St. Louis is given an excellent opportunity to not tie the franchise down to a horrible contract for the next ten years that would have crippled the team’s ability to remain competitive. While the Cardinals will no doubt struggle in the coming years, the organization has continually demonstrated over the years how they can remain tough without a New York-sized payroll. They will bounce back.
I still can’t get over the issue though of a franchise’s best-ever player switching teams. And this wasn’t a Carmelo Anthony type of case where the player had a lot of questions about leadership and commitment. This is Albert freaking Pujols, the player any dad would point out for his son to emulate. He’s always done it the “right” way. He’s never been a distraction. And all he does is drop bombs and win games. There literally would have been a statue of him outside Busch Stadium when it was all said and done, had he decided to stay. Not many players, in any sport, can say that.
A lot of people are going to try to preach about what this means about the state of the game. Columnists will try to decipher what this expresses about our society and our sports culture. I have to admit it’s really, really easy to fall into that trap.
The truth is though, all this means is that Albert Pujols wanted to make as much money as he could. Who can blame him for that? St. Louis was underpaying him the past seven years and both sides knew it. This also likely means that in three years the Angels are going to extremely regret this move. If history has taught us anything, it’s that spending extraordinary amounts of money NEVER works out well. Throwing in that no trade clause too? Organizational suicide.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t bad mouth the Cardinals this morning. They didn’t want to ruin their chance to compete for a decade. You shouldn’t bad mouth Albert Pujols either. Any of us would do the exact same thing.
As a wise rap group once said, cash rules everything around me, CREAM, get the money, dollar dollar bills, ya’ll.
Generation Y, where I’m honestly debating getting a second Tebow jersey for Christmas. I’m in love.
What a game. What a sport. There is of course nothing I can write this morning to perfectly describe that game. Being that I live in Dallas I can tell you that it was a quiet, lonely morning where you could just kind of feel the energy of the city being sucked out. Given that I have no dog in this fight though, let me be the one of the millions to say how much fun that game was last night. Call it hyperbole, say I’m over-exaggerating, I don’t care. That was the single greatest baseball game I’ve ever witnessed. It follows one of the most entertaining playoffs I’ve ever seen as well as the single greatest day of baseball I’ve ever seen on the last day of the regular season. And the best part is we get to come back tonight and do it all again. Such a pleasure. Let’s play a little mythbusters this morning instead of the usual column.
Myth: The losing team tonight should blame their manager. You have two very contrasting styles going head-to-head here with Ron Washington’s “don’t mess with a good thing, trust the guys that got you here” philosophy battling Tony La Russa’s “I must constantly tweak everything possible in order to gain some sort of competitive advantage” theory. Look, both of them work about 50% of the time and that’s all you can ask out of your manager. It’s stupid to blame TLR for game five or Wash for game six. I know hindsight is 20/20, but at their respective times of failure, both managers were acting in the best interests of their teams. It’s impossible in baseball to make the correct managerial decision every single time. There’s too much chance, luck, fate, and low probability involved. It’s essentially gambling.
Fact: The losing team tonight should blame their defense. It’s been awful. Just unforgivable. Both teams made fools of themselves throughout the series, and in particular the Rangers. There’s been way too many errant throws, failed scoops, dropped flyballs (I’m looking at you Nelson Cruz), etc. In an era where great fielding was seen as the latest trend in Moneyball, it’s astonishing that this is what we’re seeing in the World freaking Series.
Myth: Any of the multiple players who were injured last night will miss the game this evening. I know a lot of Rangers fans are probably waking to the news of Napoli’s injury and Cruz’s hamstring injury this morning. Curt Schilling said it best last night. There’s no way any of them miss time tonight. No way. You never know when you’ll get the chance to be back in the World Series, much less a winner takes all situation like game seven. How could you ever live with yourself as an athlete if you skipped tonight? There’s no possible way either of them or Matt Holliday skip out. Take your shots, take your pills, make this game a classic. You have the rest of the offseason to heal. For God’s sake Josh Hamilton is playing this entire playoffs with either (and possibly both) a groin tear or a sports hernia. That didn’t stop him from going H.A.M.ilton (copyright Gen Y Sports, 2011) in extra innings last night for what should have been the game-winning homer.
Truth: A majority of the Rangers bullpen guys are incapable of throwing strikes. If I was Tony La Russa I would be telling my guys that they’re not allowed to lift the bat off their shoulder against the Rangers bullpen until they have two strikes in the count. I’m being 100% serious. Consider the disasters of Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz last night. The reason they found themselves in their respective scenarios was because neither of them have the ability to throw first pitch strikes. Ogando has been particularly awful. Look I get that having 99-mph heat goes a long way in this league. I understand that Feliz is probably intentionally wild to give the hitters an even slimmer chance of ever catching up to one of his fastballs. But still, my strategy wouldn’t change. Let the Rangers pitchers beat themselves. I swear to God they’ll load the bases with walks because they can’t come close to the strike zone.
Myth: The Cardinals have all the momentum. It’s a game seven. All bets are off. Anything is possible. There is nobody out there who could possibly predict what’s going to happen next. The Red Sox didn’t win the World Series after Carlton Fisk’s game-six walk off. For all we know, the Rangers might show up tonight and win by ten runs. No seriously, look at their lineup again if you think I’m crazy. It’s quite possible that momentum is the most made up false idea in all of sports.
Truth: Don’t tell any of the Cardinals players that. This is why I love sports. The athletes in reality are usually very simple men, a majority of whom likely didn’t receive higher education. They believe in ideas like “never giving up,” that their “character” is what got them here, that they “refused to lose.” And you know what? They might just be right.
I said this on the last day of the regular season and I’ll reiterate it again. Last night was one of those rare occasions where all of the time invested/wasted on sports paid off. Who could have ever envisioned that game? Who could have possibly said with any hint of sanity last night that the Cardinals were going to win that game? At one point I was almost positive Disney was conspiring with Bud Selig to film the sequel to Angels in the Outfield. It was one of those once in a generation “miracle” games. And god damnit if that wasn’t one of the most enjoyable nights of sports watching I’ve ever been a part of. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I often take a bunch of flack for how much time I devote to sports. I understand why. But then there’s games like last night where I can point and say “See! This is why it’s worth it.” That kind of magic what you pray for every time you tune in, and somehow, somehow, last night was even better than that.
Generation Y, where we’d like to add Case Keenum to our fantasy team.
Wait for it at around the 1:22 mark. He definitely says “No Jose” instead of “oh say.” Wow.