When the 2011 season started, this blog was 3 1/2 years old and had never actually covered a championship season. That changed during a dramatic season and historic postseason. Now that the fifth anniversary of that run is upon us, I’m going to rerun some posts to relive that run as it happened. I don’t know that I’ll do all of them, but probably a good number of them. (It also doubles as getting some posts over here from the old site.) So I hope you’ll enjoy these dispatches from a semi-long time ago! We’ll start out with one that makes you realize that I can never make predictions.
Yet Another Pujols Entry
I know, I know. The Albert Pujols negotiations have been done to death. The scraps of information in the national press are even too small for a mouse, to reference a classic Christmas tale. So why should we talk about it again?
Well, for one thing, there’s not much else out there to talk about. Besides, I look back over my last posts and see that I’ve not really talked much about it since January 18. (Granted, that was only four posts ago, but bear with me.)
Really what got me thinking about it and wanting to put a few thoughts down was the conversation Nick and I had last night on the UCB Radio Hour. After a wonderful half-hour with Geoff Goldman of Fox Sports Midwest (and if you didn’t listen last night, go spend some time as Geoff talks about what we may see this year on the TV side and some of the reasons behind the on-air rotation that will be going on), Nick and I started talking not only about the story of the day, but how the story of the day was being covered.
It’s a rare condition this day and age, besides reading any good news on the newspaper page, to have a negotiation really take place behind closed doors. There’s always someone leaking something, someone trying to build up value in the press, someone wanting to exert pressure on someone else.
Not in this situation, though. Sure, there was a little bit of talk earlier in the year, mainly in the spring training deadline, but nothing about disrespect or lowballing or anything actually to do with the negotiations. Just think about how rare that really is.
I think there are a couple of reasons for that. One, this isn’t a real free agency situation. Albert is going to be a Cardinal this coming year, there’s no question about that. So it’s not a situation where he’s on the market and trying to get multiple teams to bid so as to drive up the price. There’s only one team in the mix and they know not only what he’s done, but what he’s worth to the organization. They’ve seen it first hand. There’s no need to artificially turn up the stove, as it were.
The second reason is pretty simple. Dan Lozano is not Scott Boras.
That’s a huge difference, isn’t it? Boras is known for “mystery teams”. He’s known for feeding specific writers bits of information that help out his cause. Which means that the teams that are in the negotiation feel obligated to leak their information as well, so as to combat the public opinion that Boras is trying to shape. There’s nothing particularly wrong with all of that. Boras is trying to get the best deal for his client (and, by extension, himself) and those are the tools he wants to use to do it.
Lozano is a different story, it appears. Scott Lamb, author of Pujols: More Than The Game (which came out early–you can order it on Amazon right now if you want!) made a couple of points in the chat room during last night’s show. One was that, even though Lozano just recently went out on his own, this isn’t his first solo negotiation. He just recently got a contract extension for Joey Votto from the Reds. Not exactly the same stakes, but still a nice job.
The second part was that Lozano sits on the board of the Pujols Family Foundation. What that means to me, knowing what we do about how passionate Pujols is about his charity work, is that Lozano is more than an agent. He’s a friend, a guy who knows what Pujols is about, who knows what he wants and how he wants to get there. I don’t think he risks a baseball incident, if you will, trying to squeeze the club for a little more when he knows Albert wants to stay on the club.
When you think about it, these negotiations really do seem to fall in line with what we think we know about Albert Pujols. He’s trying to be respectful, both to the team and his teammates. He’s not necessarily trying to put undo pressure on an organization that he cares about. He knows what he wants, but he’s not going to talk about it because the money isn’t the biggest thing to him.
I think when you look at all the factors, he’s going to resign in the next couple of weeks. Of course, the countdown is on. Like Nick said last night, though, if they are very close at the beginning of spring training, I don’t think Pujols jeopardizes things by cutting off negotiations. He may let Lozano finish up the details and they sign early in camp. Still, for PR purposes if nothing else, I think they try to get it done before AP makes it to Florida.
What’s it going to cost? I don’t know. There’s a big debate raging most everywhere but definitely at CardsClubhouse about where the price point is. Where do you say, “He’s worth this but no more.” Pip showed that he’s possibly not going to be worth an A-Rod contract. Where do you draw the line?
I’m one that would probably pay him more than others. Not only for future performance, not only because I think payroll would adjust, not only for what he’s done in the past at a discount rate, not only because I think what is expensive today will be commonplace down the road. All of those things come into play, but I think one of the reasons Pujols will get a premium boils down to one word.
Nick and I were talking last night about one of the reasons the Pujols coverage is so frustrating to us is because we are on the ground floor of this. We follow the local media, read the little they have, then see it regurgitated by the national press with nothing new on it. As I said last night, this would have a little less impact on us, be a little less wearisome, if it were Albert Pujols of the Atlanta Braves or San Francisco Giants. It’s also a perfect storm of events, though. A guy this good on the team that we follow? When is the next time that is ever going to happen?
Which is what I mean by history. You are paying somewhat for the opportunity 25 years down the road to trot out Albert Pujols as the greatest living Cardinal. (Unless Stan’s still around, but that might be asking a lot even from the great Musial.) You are paying for that chance to see an inner-ring Hall of Famer spend his whole career in your uniform. You are paying for my son and daughter’s generation to hold him in as much reverence as we hold Musial.
These are the things that you pay a premium for. It’s an opportunity that may never come around again. You think there will be countdown clocks when Colby Rasmus comes close to free agency? We may agonize about Adam Wainwright, but it won’t be a national story. As much promise as Shelby Miller has, do we really think he’ll reach these kind of Cooperstown elite levels?
The Cardinals had Stan Musial. That’s all they could ever expect to have. To have one amazing talent spend their whole entire career in your uniform is a blessing. Some teams don’t have that. I’m not talking about just lifers, or good players that happened to stay with your organization forever. I’m talking no-doubt Hall of Famers. To have one guy like that is a great thing. To have two……
I’ve often joked that, with Musial being 6 and Pujols being 5, I really wanted to see who was wearing 4 when my son gets to be my age. But the fact is, the likelihood of ever having a top-level HOF player being developed and then staying in St. Louis again has long odds. Hopefully, the Cards won’t squander this opportunity.
This isn’t anything new, of course. You’ve probably heard most of these arguments and discussions over and over again. I just wanted to get them down in one spot, though. If nothing else, maybe I can make it into The Daily Pujols!