Welcome Back, Baseball, 2011: The "I forgot to sign Albert Pujols" edition
Ok, so I didn't write that much after launching this blog in August of 2010, so I wanted to start out fresh for 2011 which will have many more entries at about a 1-2 blogs per week clip.
So, what better way to start off the Carrot League Baseball Today 2011 season than the day the St. Louis Cardinals failed to come to a contract extension agreement with the greatest player to ever put on not only a Cardinals uniform, but quite possibly the greatest player to ever play the game in Albert Pujols, who will become a free agent after the 2011 season. Pujols (seen here daydreaming about the piles of money he'll inevitably be paid) and his agent, Dan Lozano, set today's noon deadline about a month or so ago to either accept or refuse the Cardinals contract proposal , but we all know it wasn't as if the Cardinals brass didn't see this day coming 1, 2, or even 3 seasons ago. The major factor about the deadline is that Pujols designed it so the door isn't just closed, but locked and chained shut to avoid the distraction & deny any contract negotiation until the season ends-- when every other team will have the same right to pursue him. Pujols has also made it clear he will veto any trade during the season as he has full-veto power, so the Cardinals can't even explore it.
Pujols has earned this payday just like any other free agent-to-be. But, that's just silly to say because this isn't any other free agent, this is Albert Pujols: a legacy in St. Louis, a future 1st ballot Hall-of-Famer, a ridiculously charitable man in the St. Louis community...wait, let's stop it and just say that Albert Pujols IS the St. Louis Cardinals. Among baseball fans, players, etc., he's one of those rare players who only needs to be mentioned by his first name to know who you're talking about. He's Albert. "Did you see what Albert did today?"...and immediately that powerful, yet graceful swing--so rare for a right-handed batter to possess--crushing a ball into the left field seats comes to mind. But, it's not about the money, it's about Albert being paid as the top player in the game, it's about Albert & "I-don't-care-the Cardinals-overpaid-for-Matt-Holliday". It's about Albert Pujols being rewarded for filling the seats at Busch Stadium, about being rewarded for his class, his hard work, and his ability as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
The Cardinals know that if they don't open their checkbook, some team will pay him what he's looking for...and given the state of today's game, you can only realistically look at the teams who can afford him, plus who they have at first base.
NY Yankees: They have Mark Teixeira locked up for years and their "official" statement to the press today was that they're happy (for now)....but get back to us in November when "Albert Pujols is a free agent" becomes real. Teixeira isn't exactly clutch in the post season with a .214 average.
Boston Red Sox: The now have Adrian Gonzalez. They just got him, I don't think they'll be looking, Gonzalez is perfect for them.
Philadelphia Phillies: Remember those Ryan Howard-for-Albert trade rumors last year? Well, the Phillies just extended Howard $125 million over the next 5 years...but, they ARE left-handed heavy in their lineup, Howard has much to prove if they make the 2011 post-season, and toss in the fact that Howard is a St. Louis native and is well-admired by the Cardinal fans (they'd love him even more if he doesn't have to face them). With the contracts the Phillies have given their fearsome pitching staff, could they afford Pujols?? Consider this: if Howard has a poor 2011 playoff season, would the Phillies revisit a trade elsewhere in order to negotiate with Pujols? That trade would result in about a $6 mil increase to what they're paying Howard now, but they do lose Raul Ibanez' huge contract after this season and have Brad Lidge and Jimmy Rollins approaching free agency, too. Logic says that Ibanez and Lidge will not be in Phillies uniforms in 2012 and if you combine that with their need for a RH power bat and even a possible Howard playoff semi-flop...I'd say it would be best to stay tuned for this one to heat up. One never knows what Ruben Amaro has up his sleeve, especially if they don't win the 2011 World Series. (please note I am a big Ryan Howard fan and hope he does well this year and post season).
Milwaukee Brewers: Ok, so we know they don't have the money to sign Albert Pujols....but what they DO have is a young, powerful first baseman who will also become a free agent after the 2011 season in Prince Fielder. If Albert ends up playing elsewhere in 2012, watch for the Cardinals to RUN to pay Prince Fielder some dough similar to what Howard is making.
Washington Nationals: They just showed the baseball world that they are willing to pay with their overzealous contract they gave to Jayson Werth. They have a star player in Ryan Zimmerman. They'll get super-stud Stephen Strasburg back on the mound in 2012 after he completes rehab after Tommy John surgery. They just lost their own power hitting ox in first baseman, Adam Dunn, who signed with the Chicago White Sox this off-season. And finally, they just drafted wunderkind, Bryce Harper who is arguably one of the best prospects to be drafted in the last 10 years. Would Washington open their books a little more for Albert??
The ultimate decision is up to Albert Pujols. With this type of storyline, I almost can't wait for the season to end and see how this unfolds....but there's a ton of Major League Baseball games to be played and many which involve Albert Pujols. I'm sure I'll be just fine waiting while watching the 2011 MLB season.