(St. Louis, Mo.) Albert Pujols is taking his .328 batting average, 445 home runs and 1,329 RBI to bask in the sun of the southern California summers. When that news broke yesterday it shook the very foundations of Busch Stadium and Cardinal Nation.
The initial reactions were mixed, some understood it, others were angry, and then there were those who didn’t know how to react. Today we continue to see the latter, with videos of fans burning jerseys going viral on YouTube. As the local media continues to report on jersey burning and the Pujols 5 statue being protected I’ll spend my time evaluating this move for all parties and hopefully, convince you that the Cardinals will be just fine in 2012 and beyond.
The St. Louis Cardinals don’t owe anyone an apolgy. I stand firmly behind the ownership. Yes, Albert is a once in a generation type of player. However, you can’t handicap your ball club going forward by just throwing money at a guy only to later get stuck on the wrong end of a bad contract. The Cardinals are a $100-$110 million dollar payroll team. So offering Pujols in excess of $25 million a year would have been a crippling contract for the club, especially during the later years when his body begins to break down and production drops. The Cardinals offer ( 10 years/$210M) was competitive, realistic and fair. It wasn’t a slap in the face or disrespectful. The only real gripe you can have with the front office is that they didn’t move fast enough to make the offer, considering they have had the last two years to get a deal done.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have an advantage the Cardinals don’t. Playing in the American League and having the designated hitter position in their line up. That allows them to use the DH as a crutch during the later years of the deal when Pujols’ body begins to break down and he can no longer serve as the every day first basemen. The franchise also will be seeing an increase in revenue with a new television contract, which allows them to spend more money and sign Pujols and C.J. Wilson. While it will seem outrageous to pay a 38-year old DH more than $25M a year, the fact that they have the DH alone should extend Pujols productive years. In the end, if he is hitting 20-25 home runs a season into his late 30’s, it will be hard to consider this a bad deal for the Angels.
Don’t insult us Albert, it was about the money. Which is really how it should be. You have to understand that baseball, like any other sport is a business. There is a market value for every athlete and they are entitled to get what they are worth. If Albert’s main concern was winning he would have taken the deal the Cardinals offered. The club is only going to get better with Adam Wainwright returning next year, not to mention our young stars like David Freese, Jon Jay and Allen Craig developing further. And don’t forget the pitching prospects we have in Carlos Martinez and Shelby Miller. The Cardinals are built to win now and going forward. So Albert, when you are introduced tomorrow in Anaheim, don’t give us excuses. Man up and admit that the Angles offered you more and gave you what you believe you are worth, and that is why you left for southern California. A word of advice to you and for future stars: never say that you want to be a “life long (insert team name here). That, I believe is why most of the negative reaction has transpired.
In the end, it was a business decision. There shouldn’t be any anger directed at the Cardinals or the Angles. Albert Pujols shouldn’t be turned into a villain like LeBron James after he left Cleveland. Cardinals brass gave Albert a fair and competitive offer and they were outbid. Pujols didn’t go on national television with a network special to announce his choice. Both sides were classy about this entire process. It’s cliche but ultimately it’s a business and this was just another business decision.
The St. Louis Cardinals will be just fine in 2012 and beyond. I mentioned it above, but it’s worth repeating. The Cardinals have plenty of young talent in our minor league system. Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez are just two of the plus pitching prospects we have. Not to mention Zack Cox and Kolten Wong Maybe not another Albert Pujols like bat, but we can address that issue through free agency and trades. Now if you want to argue that I am basing that excitement off of potential alone, I will give you that. But consider that the 2011 Cardinals title run was fueled by contributions from 6 of the Cardinals Top 10 2010 prospects according to Baseball America. So there is a reason to believe that our farm system is producing quality talent for our big league club.
While the face of the Cardinals franchise for the last decade is gone, the team moves on. It will take time to heal, but Cardinal Nation will recover by the time Spring Training starts. The Cardinals won before Albert and they will win after him.