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Pujols will not be a "Cardinal for life"Posted Friday, December 9, 2011, at 8:28 AM
It's probably for the best that I waited until morning to pen this column. Just like many of the rest of you I was pretty bitter yesterday. It has been such a rocky, emotional week and when I heard Wednesday night that the Angels were involved in talks with Pujols I thought they might have a shot.
I still believed he would be a Cardinal, mind you, but I thought they had a shot. I also take them more seriously than the Marlins. The Angels don't toss around Monopoly money like the Marlins, they actually have it and were in a financial position to do something huge following a new television contract. Well, they did.
Honestly, the idea that the Cardinals offered 10 years was absurd to me anyway. While I still think he will go down as one of the best to play the game, he is in fact going down. Maybe it's going to happen very slowly, but I have little doubt that by 2016-2017, the Angels will be paying $25.4 million to a $15.4 million player.
The nagging elbow issue is still there, he's slowed down, his stats have been in a slow, but steady decline for three seasons, he has a lot of back pain and fractured a wrist last year. The wrist thing makes me as nervous as anything. Many big players have seen their careers take a quick downturn following a fracture. They lose swing power and arthritis can begin to set in. Of course, Pujols showed us plenty of power late in the season so that may be a moot point.
There are a number of positive aspects to his departure that we haven't discussed yet.
* First and foremost, we are not tied to a 10 year monster contract. This frees up money for so many possibilities.
* This improves our ability to keep Adam Wainwright a Cardinal. Albert's return meant certain demise for Wainwright's tenure here.
* The Cardinals have a level of roster flexibility they haven't experienced in years. For many years now every decision made has involved Albert as the centerpiece. With that gone, maybe we'll finally see that true middle infield upgrade we've been praying for.
* When Albert is 40 years old and well into the decline of his career, it's not our payroll he will be saddled to.
* We will continue to be able to build a strongly competitive team. It's possible the first year will be a real test, but the fact is, with or without Albert, the front office wants to win and so does our entire roster. They will do everything possible to be sure that happens.
* He went to the American League! The exclamation point is there because our exposure to him in the opposite dugout will be minimal. If he's gone, the less we have to play him for the next five years or so the better. With the schedule changes coming in 2013 we'll see him regularly, but who knows what we may have by then.
* Stan "the Man" Musial, will hang on to the massive number of club records he has for the rest of his life. Someday another pup will come along who might challenge him again, but it won't be in the immediate future.
* I didn't have to use the headline "Albert takes his talents to South Beach." Of course that's only because he took them to Long Beach.
The truth be told, I wish Albert the best in his new situation. I sincerely hate that he sacrificed his legend status in St. Louis for a few more bucks in Los Angeles. Frankly, with COL factored in as well as taxes, he may make less in salary than he would have here. He also will do well in endorsements.
Frankly, I nearly flipped out of my chair when I heard we had offered 10 years. I loved him as a Cardinal, but good sense has to prevail at some point. I think GM John Mozeliak and owner Bill Dewitt, Jr. made a valiant effort that involved an extremely fair offer even at the expense of strapping the team's future.
My thought is that, Albert felt he was ready to leave. I think when an agreement wasn't reached by the end of spring training, he had decided it was time to move on. A good friend of mine and I spoke last night and he suggested the possibility of this being a couple of years in the making. He felt that being paid less than Matt Holliday could have really upset Pujols. Maybe he felt he was slighted in his last extension with the club?
The fact is, it was most likely the money. As fans we like to believe he was above that greedy mentality, but as numerous reporters and columnists have reiterated this week, baseball is a business and ball players are businessmen. He made a business decision that he felt was best for he and his family. While I don't necessarily agree with the decision or that it was the best option in the long term, I respect his right to make it.
Now it's time to get ready for next season and show him that this team and these fans can do just fine with him in California.
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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