Turned Off by Pujols, the Cardinals and $$$

The Albert Pujols-St. Louis Cardinals haggling is a massive turn off. All I need to do is hear “Pujols” or “St. Louis Cardinals,” and I change the channel.

I’m not sure whether Pujols, his agent Dan Lozano, or the Cardinals truly understand what they refer to as “the market.”

Since I worked on Wall Street for nearly 25 years, I do understand it. Markets are not static but are constantly in flux.

Unfortunately for Pujols, in today’s baseball climate, there’s no interest in signing a 31-year-old player to a ten-year deal for nearly $30 million annually. As of today, Pujols’ value is $16 million for the remaining year on his contract. The Cardinals apparently offered more but Pujols prefers to gamble that by 2012, an owner will step up and offer him the money he wants.

Historically (see Jayson Werth, Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Kevin Brown, Ryan Howard etc.), owners have anted up. But there’s a certain group mentality among baseball’s big bosses that salaries and contract terms governing length of service have to be drawn somewhere. Pujols may have the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Other 2012 possibilities include Pujols wrenching his knee running out an Opening Day ground ball and requiring surgery. Or maybe, under the unpleasant atmosphere surrounding his dispute with the Cardinals he could hit .265 with a corresponding drop in home run and RBI production. If either of those scenarios comes true, Pujols value will drop precipitously.

Pujols is disappointingly hung up on being baseball’s highest paid player. But at the salary levels he’s talking about, what realistically does it matter if he earns more than Alex Rodriguez? I’ll make the seemingly strange (until you stop to think about it) argument that there is no practical difference between $20, $25 or $30 million a year. And if it were up to me, I’d rather not have my name mentioned in the same sentence with Rodriguez.

What the fans are left with is the prospect of an extended, season-long reminder that Pujols wants $5 or $10 million more per year than whatever multimillion dollar deal management has offered.

Whether it’s fair or not, an months-long debate about how many millions more Pujols wants in an era of 10 percent American unemployment puts him by definition in a bad light, at least as far as I’m concerned.

Give me Gil Meche any day! Meche left $12 million of his $55 million contract on the table when he retired from the Kansas City Royals during the off season. Plagued by shoulder injuries last year, Meche went 0-5 with a 5.69 ERA. Even with surgery, there was no guarantee that he would pitch in 2011.

As Meche said during his press conference:

My first reaction is I’m not a guy who’s going to sit here and play baseball for the money. I know you hear a lot of athletes say, `It’s not for the money, it’s not for the money.’

Actually, it wasn’t. And hopefully this does show a lot of guys do feel the same as I do. Yeah, I’ve made a lot of money in my career and I know I’m financially good. My kids are good. That’s comforting for me. I’m not a guy who’s going to go and blow money. The money wasn’t ever, ever a factor in my decision.

Do the math on Meche’s deal. He’s earned $43 million from baseball. At age 32 and assuming he lives to 72 but deducting whatever he’s spent since he signed his contract in 2007, he’s still got about $800,000 a year to live on (in retirement!) plus whatever supplemental income he generated before or after his career.

To date, Pujols has made $111 million and is a beloved figure. Pujols may or may not play out his days as a Cardinals; he could or could not keep his iconic status in St. Louis. But whether he signs with the Cardinals or some other money-minting team, there will always be a lingering and bitter aftertaste in fans’ hearts about what’s truly important to Pujols.

Outside Busch Stadium, 10 sculptures of St. Louis ballplayers stand. They represented the best Cardinals of all time and include Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst and of course Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Stan Musial. Nowhere on their statues is there a mention of how much money they made.

13 Replies to “Turned Off by Pujols, the Cardinals and $$$”

  1. Thanks. I’ve been saying the same thing, but you did it much better. Most of us will never $20 mil in a lifetime, and he’s concerned about it for ‘respect’.

    It’s throw away money.

    I wish him the best, but he’s lost a lot in my eyes.

  2. Did I miss the “share” button here? I would love to share this on facebook, but can’t seem to find an option for that. If not, you seriously need one.

  3. Let’s not forget that this is a business and for the players, this is their livelihood. We shouldn’t think for an instant that the owners are paying more than they have to.
    Put yourself in the shoes of a player, any player and see if you wouldn’t try to make as much as you could, while you can? It’s a hard game with no sentiment beyond what can you contribute to me today.
    At least what they’re earning isn’t coming out of anyones taxes.

  4. @Vinnie: Sure I understand what you are saying but Paujols baseball “livelihood” even if he signs the reduced $20 million for seven years or $30 million for five years would exceed a quarter of a billion dollars exclusive of whatever he earns and would continue to earn from endorsements, appearances etc. And that would be a pile!

    While I wish Pujols well, I just cannot back him on this. And as fans we shouldn’t either. His salary will not, as you point out, be financed by our taxes, but you’ll pay more at the box office for your tickets which are already quite high enough,

  5. I can envision the day when MLB ballparks have statues of players outside their confines whose height will be determined by the amount of money earned during their careers.

  6. Joe, well thought out commentary, as usual. Pujols has alwasy been seen as one of the “good guys” and I hate to see a stain like this coming upon him. I also wonder if LaRussa’s contention that the players union is forcing him to take this stand is true. If so (and the union took a similar stand when Jim Thome eventually left Cleveland a few years back), what a shame.

  7. Excellent analysis.

    This desire to be the highest paid player is making Pujols look truly greedy and egotistical, two traits I usually reserver for owners. I agree wholeheartedly with the notion that there’s no real difference between $20 million a year and $30 million for a player whose already earned almost $90 million during his career.

    The one aspect that isn’t being brought up enough is how a huge contract for Pujols will impact St Louis’s ability to build a contending team around him. If he would be willing to “accept” a mere $18 to $20 million a year instead of $28 to $30 million, it would allow the Cardnials to spend another ten to twelve million signing another hitter or two to beef up their lineup. That would mean better stats for Pujols and a better chance of getting back to the World Series.

    The question in my mind is, at what point does Pujols decide that playing for a pennant contending Cardinal team is more important to him than adding a few more millions to his bank account?

  8. The one question everyone should be asking, even though admittedly, it’ll never be one we’ll have the real life opportunity to answer is simply; try to imagine yourself in Albert, or any other professional athlete’s place and as best you can, tell us what you’d do and why? It’s awfully easy to make tough decisions for others. The hard part is deciding on the things that truly concern us.

  9. Vinnie, If I was in Albert’s position, my number one priority would be to try and sign with a team located relatively close to my home so that I could maximize the time I spend with them during the long baseball season. I live in Oregon, so I’d try and sign with the Giants, A’s, or Mariners once the 2011 season ended.

    I’d tell the Cardinals thanks for everything but it’s time for me to move on.

    The Giants would be my first choice because of their park, their city, their climate and their pitching staff. Even if the Giants offered me “only” a measily 5 year contract at $10 million per year, I’d take it and be glad to do so.

  10. Bill. Those are all excellent reasons to make a decision, and I whole heartidly would support your choice if that were the situation, just as I’d support the choice everyone would make and for whatever personal reasons they had for making them.
    If we want to be able to make the best choices in life for ourselves, we have to leave the same possibilities open to everybody. And we should wish them all well.

  11. I agree that making decisions or second guessing others’ decisions is easy to do.

    In my view, haggling over money is way high on the list of unpleasant things to do. When its rich people doing it, there’s no excuse and no one can emerge looking good.

  12. Great point Joe. Look at the international bankers for example. They literally “steal” billions with their debt based, fiat money/fractional reserve system that they’ve yolked us all with, yet their activities are cloaked in the deepest, darkest of secrecy’s where their acts go undetected and unnoticed to the public. Meanwhile, everyone is upset about a handful of athlete millionaires doing battle with even richer multimillionaire owners because it’s out in the open.

    It’s gotten to where I call this the broken finger nail syndrome. The girl in the office has had her day ruined by breaking one of her nails and is inconsolable. I tell people like that if that’s the worse thing going on in their lives, they should consider just how good they really have it.

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