What’s the potentially greatest baseball player in history worth?
True to form, Albert Pujols is swinging for the fences.
The All-World first baseman wants to be known as the greatest baseball player in history. After taking major strides toward this unofficial title during his first ten major league seasons, the St. Louis slugger desires to be paid like one.
Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt doesn’t doubt whether the face of his franchise is deserving of the status as baseball’s highest-paid player. Rather, DeWitt is questioning whether his team should pay one player such a hefty sum at the risk of financially handcuffing his organization for the length of a contract that could extend into the next decade.
This line of thinking explains the deliberate approach taken by DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak. The Cards’ brass made just one offer to Pujols within the past six weeks. Not since the worldwide fears surrounding Y2K have we seen such a buildup to a doomsday deadline that passed as peacefully as Wednesday’s deadline without a deal.
The Cardinals’ initial offer reportedly exceeded more than $200 million over eight years for an average of more than $25 million per season, but still below the $27.5 million season average paid by the Yankees to Alex Rodriguez. One report stated that Pujols was even offered a stake in ownership.
Once the Cardinals allowed their exclusive window to close, the decision opened the door for other possible suitors. Pujols and his agent, Dan Lozano, immediately suspended contract talks until after the season when the Cardinals will have to compete with all comers in the free agent market. As a result, Lozano becomes the most powerful representative of a trophy client since Cecil Newton was taking bids for his son’s services from SEC football programs.
Soon enough, they will discover which teams are willing to provide Pujols the approximately $300 million that he supposedly seeks.
Upon his Thursday morning arrival at the team’s spring training facility in Jupiter, Florida, the man with 408 career home runs came out swinging to hammer at the speculation surrounding the contract terms and demands.
“You have no clue,” he said to reporters. “You guys are way off on the numbers you are throwing out there.”
Could it be that the numbers and demands are even higher than previously thought?
Either way, he wants to set the gold standard for salaries but do so while continuing to wear red. “I want to be a Cardinal forever. That’s my goal,” said the 31-year-old Pujols.
There are those who believe the Cards are taking a tremendous risk in allowing a player with all-time great numbers to drive up his market value. On the flip-side, no one – besides Pujols, that is – gains if team officials hand their star player a mega-million jackpot, then fail to acquire players at the trade deadline or via free agency while blaming financial security issues (see New York Mets).
In the meantime, who will be upset if the three-time National League Most Valuable Player is motivated to show everyone that he deserves the richest contract in baseball history by having the best statistical season of his nearly unparalleled ten-year career? Find one Cardinals fan that will suffer should “The Machine” surpass his career-highs in batting average, homers and RBI, possibly win the Triple Crown and put his team in position to contend for a title.
Don’t be confused. As it is for anyone else, it’s about the money for Pujols, too. This, however, does not diminish how important winning championships and seeking greatness is to him. That’s why he set the deadline for a deal, so that ongoing negotiations do not distract him and his teammates from their ultimate goal.
If anyone can compartmentalize the negotiations for the next nine months, it is Albert Pujols, who claims, “I’m locked in more than ever.”
Opposing pitchers, consider yourselves warned.
Michael Kim is the host of SportsCenter, ESPN America’s flagship US sports news programme, now airing in the UK on ESPN America every weekday morning live from 6:00am with an updated show at 10:30pm. Catch exclusive MLB Spring Training games live on ESPN America from Thursday 3rd March 2011. For the details visit: www.espn.co.uk/tvTagged in: Albert Pujols, america, baseball, St. Louis, usa
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