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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ante Up

“There’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die.”
~ ‘The Babe,’ in The Sandlot

Only ten years into his career, Albert Pujols is on pace to write his own record book. The legend of Pujols is of mythical proportions, as Ruth and Gehrig are remembered. If able to maintain longevity and consistent production, surpassing 800 career home runs is a realistic milestone. He is the best hitter in baseball, and he will have the opportunity to establish himself as the greatest baseball player of all-time.

Following the 2011 baseball season, Pujols will have the opportunity to file for free agency. To eliminate distraction throughout the season, Pujols set a deadline to negotiate with his current team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Sources close to the situation have sited that he is seeking a contract worth $300 million over the length of 10 years. That deadline was yesterday, the day before he was to arrive at spring training. Result: The best hitter in baseball, is prepared to be released into the free market.

The amount of money professional athletes are paid is stupid. Our nation’s teachers deserve to be over-compensated and treated with such dignity. The men and women who serve and protect our country have earned the right to be over-compensated and celebrated with such honor. But we don’t live in a perfect society, where right is right and the justifiable is rewarded.

Whether we like it or not, professional athletes will continue to be paid exuberantly ridiculous salaries, for playing a game. But don’t sit there and say, “I would play for nothing!” No you wouldn’t. “But I would play for the love of the game! It’s not about the money!” No you wouldn’t, and yes it is. The greedy, unappreciative society, that has been cultivated throughout our lives, would not permit such a notion; so stop it.

Do not fault Pujols, or any of the preceding athletes that have sought unimaginable wealth during their careers. Why shouldn’t they seek the riches available to them? If someone was willing and ready to pay you an annual salary of $30 million for your service, would you turn them down? As a result of the owners willing to pay such large salaries, it has set an unfortunate precedent going forward. It will never change.

The Cardinals are doing their best to appear poised and prepared for life after Pujols. They’re not fooling anyone. They are terrified of the thought of losing him, for the backlash from their fan base, the depreciation of value of their franchise and the product on the field. Imagine hearing the PA announcer on opening day next season…“Playing first base, #5, Adam LaRoche!” It will be the equivalent of LeBron James leaving
Cleveland. It would be a nightmare for this proud organization and wonderful baseball city.

Somebody will pay Pujols what he wants, and deserves (comparatively speaking with other players). Sources have sited that the Cardinals division rival, Chicago Cubs, would be a major player for Pujols’ service. They have the money, and their fans would erect a statue in his honor before they even played a game. The Washington Nationals are an interesting team, as they too have been rumored to be interested in entering the free-agency sweepstakes this off-season. If they were able to obtain Pujols to join Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper on the way, the Nationals would be a preliminary favorite for years to come.

But I foresee Pujols re-signing with the Cardinals. The organization will stop posturing and pay the man his money. They have no other choice, unless they’re serious about trading for Adam LaRoche, who ironically is currently the Nationals first baseman. Money is not the issue. On paper, it would appear to be a bad baseball move because his contract alone would seize about 30% of the Cardinals payroll. It not only would be a bad baseball move not to re-sign him (because they have no other options), but it would be a bad business move as well. And the Cardinals know that, as does Pujols.

So in advance, I would like to congratulate Albert on acquiring the richest contact in baseball history. Well done.

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