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The Clock Is Ticking

Posted on January 18, 2011 at 8:57 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
If you are tired of the Albert Pujols negotiation discussions, I have a suggestion for you.  Turn off all devices capable of receiving news for at least a month, perhaps the entire season.  That's the only way you are going to be able to get away from it.

Bernie Miklasz writes that both sides share a little blame in this.  I think that's true, to a certain extent.  There's no doubt that the Cardinal management and ownership have seemingly blundered their way through this, hoping that it'd get taken care of or being overly cautious on not signing a bad contract.  We all thought that last offseason was the time to get things done, but serious talks weren't held then.  I'm not even sure unserious talks, where Albert's agent and John Mozeliak got up and did their best celebrity imitations while singing Broadway show tunes, were held.  "We have him under contract," was the mantra, and it was true, as far as it went.  You do have him under contract, but the sign him chorus is only going to get louder as time goes by.

I also do think that Pujols is naive if he really thinks that not negotiating during the season will keep the distractions to a minimum.  Even if, which I don't believe, the St. Louis press stopped asking him about it, every time he goes to a new city, that press corps is going to be asking him and, more importantly, his teammates about life without Pujols, do you think he can sign, etc.  It'd be one thing if the questions were limited to AP, but you know everyone in that clubhouse is going to get asked the same questions over and over again.

Both sides have a vested interest in getting this done and a time period to do it in.  I do wonder if John Mozeliak isn't negotiating for his job, though.  The man who let Pujols walk would not be popular in Cardinal Nation at all.  Even the normal "blame the player" act that this organization has been known to do won't break through the negative buzz around that.

Joe Strauss Tweeted yesterday that he thought it was funny that those that said the contract was done by Winter Warmup now are saying it is crumbling.  (I realize that the problem with following Strauss on Twitter isn't that he's snarky--snarky is fine in its place--but that he's condescending, and not at all subtly.)  Now, perhaps over at Cards Talk there was discussions about a "done deal," but (at least by the site's reputation) you can also probably find a discussion about how Albert is actually from another planet and the MIB are going to use the Arch as a huge neuralizer to have the whole city forget he was actually here.  In other words, use your silo of salt when you go in there.

That said, it also makes sense that if you thought that things were going well enough to get done by the Warmup, the fact that they are still far apart doesn't feel you with warm feelings.  I was one that all winter expected an announcement this week.  I thought that the PR would be great, that you wouldn't want the scene you had this week with Pujols refusing to answer questions and having that hang over the whole thing.  Obviously, it didn't get done.  Couple that with the comments, the talk about them still being far apart, and I'm down from 100% to 95% that he's staying.  I still think it'll happen, but I've got my first slivers of doubt.

There was a report yesterday (and again, since both sides seem to be doing their best to keep to the "radio silence" pledge, there's no telling how much truth there is to it) that the Cards' offer wasn't even $200 million and that they didn't want to go eight years.  At first, I looked and that and thought they were trying to lowball AP, which is a stupid tactic and made me fear for the negotiations.  Then I figured that, if they went right up to $200 million and went seven years, that $28.5 million a year.  That's an average value higher than the Alex Rodriguez deal, so it's definitely not a lowball.

Seven years, assuming it started after this season, would keep Pujols in St. Louis until he was 39.  You don't know who ownership would be then, who would be running the show, what AP would think of St. Louis then, but looking at it from one angle, it'd be tough to let a guy like Pujols, after having put in seventeen years, go when you could lock him up for another year or two and keep him in Cardinal red forever.  I think seven is fine, maybe with some mutual year-to-year options that keep rolling over at the end of it, similar to the contract Tim Wakefield had with the Red Sox.

There are a few other things going on in Cardinal Nation, though it's hard to imagine.  Tony La Russa held court yesterday and had a few things of interest to say.  One, his fascination of taking infielders and putting them in the outfield (and vice versa) hasn't abated, as it looks like Tyler Greene will get some time in center this spring.  I'd much rather Greene be focused on his hitting and be comfortable somewhere (say, like second base), but this gives Greene some more ABs and, of course, stirs the Colby Rasmus pot just a bit.

Also, to the dismay of the fine folks over at Pitchers Hit Eighth, TLR plans a traditional lineup this season.  That said, he has been known to use the lineup to try to give the team a boost or a jolt, so I would be pretty surprised if the pitcher didn't make an appearance at eighth at least a few times this season.

Lance Berkman is going to hit fifth.  I still think I'd rather see him in the two hole and, again, lineups are fluid with TLR, but I'm guessing most of the time it'll be Pujols-Holliday-Berkman.  Which isn't a terrible middle of the order.  I know Rasmus isn't fond of the leadoff slot (and I think he's wasted a bit there), but La Russa says that's an option.  I wouldn't mind, if you have to have Berkman two, a lineup of Theroit-Rasmus-Pujols-Holliday-Berkman-Freese-Molina-Schumaker-pitcher.  We'll see if that happens, though.

Allen Craig is fine with working out at third.  It's interesting that it's arm strength that's holding him back there, not the actual glove work.  I'd think that the strength is something that'd be easier to work on, especially in the winter.  Between Craig and David Freese, there's going to be a lot of focus on third base this spring.  Should be interesting to see how that all shakes out.

Matt Holliday wants to know where he'll be playing before spring training, which seems like a reasonable request to me.  I haven't heard any more talk about swapping him and Berkman since Berkman signed, so I would expect that both of them will be in their regular positions come Opening Day.

Finally, there was the other contract discussion that will get some attention this season, the Chris Carpenter option discussion.  Carp's got '11 under control, but '12 is a $15 million option.  I can't believe that'll get picked up, especially with Albert's new deal, hopefully.  A reworking seems reasonable, especially if he has a good year this year.

Remember, UCB Radio tomorrow night!

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1 Comment | Leave a comment


Three things:
1) No one ever accused El Diablo of being subtle. IIRC, he's the one that, in answering criticism about how writers vote for the MVP, said something to the effect of, "We're the ones who created the award, so we can vote however we want." And yes, he can be, and often is, condescending. Just ask BJ Rains; the target of many of Strauss' barbs.
2) Cards Talk is much like the old MSN chat rooms(remember them?); anyone with a computer/smart phone/etc. can post, but rarely does intelligence or common sense enter into the equation. That's one of the reasons I also stopped visiting VEB; it had become nothing more than an offshoot of Cards Talk.
3) I truly believe that DeWitt thinks that Albert will take the "hometown discount", and that even if he does reach FA at the end of the year, he'll stay in St. Louis. To quote one of my favorite bands, Judas Priest, Billy Boy has "another think coming" if that's his stance. No extension = no Albert after 2011, IMO.

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Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
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