Sports Sunday: A different take on the Pujols negotiations

February 21, 2011

Sports Sunday

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You’ve heard the story by now. The deadline passed last week without the best player in major league baseball, Albert Pujols, and the St. Louis Cardinals agreeing to a contract extension. That means at the end of this season, Pujols has the right to test the free agent waters. Disaster for St. Louis baseball? Another greedy professional athlete asking for too much money? Or maybe, just maybe, a well-organized PR plan on both sides?

Call me cynical if you want to. I am to an extent. I have always called BS on reality TV. There’s no such thing. It’s all scripted. It was no surprise to me on the last season of The Hills when the camera panned out to show a Hollywood set. And we all know Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes marriage was an arranged farce. But what does that have to do with baseball, you ask? Well, here’s what I think happened with the Pujols negotiations.

By all accounts, Pujols is a good guy. Confident, but humble. Intense, but compassionate about his fellow players and community. He’s the anti-ARod. So when I hear ESPN anchors and local radio guys making the argument that Pujols wants to be the highest-paid player in baseball and won’t settle for anything less…I don’t buy it.

I think Pujols was caught between a rock and a hard place. He has the strongest players’ union in professional sports demanding he get as much money as he can possibly get. And he has the team that gave him his first shot, the city that he loves, offering him a boatload of money – just not the biggest boatload – to finish his career in Cardinals red and white. In a multi-millionaire professional athlete’s life, this has to be a very tough decision.

That said, is it so far-fetched to think that maybe Pujols figured out a way to appease both sides? The guy is sharp and he has as strong an understanding for the game as anyone. Is there any reason we shouldn’t think that understanding extends beyond the diamond?

What if Pujols went to the players’ union and said: “I’ve got your back. I’m going to hold out and not sign before the season. That way, it will look like I’m doing right by the union. But in the end, I will resign with St. Louis for around what they’re offering once the season is over no matter what other clubs propose.

Then what if Pujols went to the Cardinals and said: “Look, we play a game for a living and this is a perception game. I don’t want to deal with all the crap from the union if I sign now, but I want to stay in St. Louis for the rest of my career. Let’s act like we’re working toward a negotiation in goodwill. We’ll miss the deadline, but I promise that I’ll sign with St. Louis for around what you’re offering once the season is over. Work with me here and I’ll never wear another team’s jersey.”

What do you think? Is it possible? I think it’s probable and was probably discussed and agreed upon long before the media began hyping the supposed “deadline.” And if so, Albert’s a smart guy. Maybe he should consider a career in PR after his playing days are over.

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kaimac 5 pts

Interesting angle. Definitely possible.

I was lucky enough to see him play a good deal when I lived in San Diego. I agree with you that he's always come across as a humble, decent guy. I don't think that money would be his driving force. Winning on the other hand, could be more of a factor, so if he does move, it'll be to win rather than for $. imo.

JGoldsborough 198 pts

kaimac Good call, could see him leaving to win elsewhere. But St. Louis is always competitive. And I don't see him as being anything like ARod who only did -- and still does, IMO -- care about the money.

RichardDedor 5 pts

Don't really disagre with your thoughts so much, but in the grand scheme of things, if this really is happening, baseball and the union should be ashamed of themselves. To put Albert in this situation where he couldn't sign the contract now that he "will" in seven months is obsurd! What if he gets hurt? Will that "PR" have been worth it?

The Union should understand that it's players are making significant ampunts of money, but money can't be what drives America's game anymore. It will soon destroy it, and if anything, Cliff Lee signing this offseason for less money, I would hope, signals that money isn't everything.

JGoldsborough 198 pts

RichardDedor Agree, it makes you a bit sick to your stomach. But then, MLB player's union has always had this rep and the players have blackballed guys from the league before. I think Albert probably feels allegiance to the union and to St. Louis. But I think the union is very much union, league, player, teams if that makes sense.