Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The One That Got Away

"How can he leave St. Louis?", "What about the life he built there?", "Why does the money matter?", "He should have gave St. Louis a hometown discount."

These are just a meager sampling of what people have been saying about Albert Pujols jumping ship to the become a Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim. For some it seemed like he was gone just like that. One minute he was raising his second Commissioner Trophy in celebration with his team, his coach and 2,8452,98 of his closest friends in the Greater St. Louis Area. And then he became a free agent, and then was gone. Just like that. But this was not merely a here one second, gone the next kind of deal. This seems like a love story gone wrong. One that was nurtured and constructed by Pujols desire to be great for the city of St. Louis and the Cardinals organization to build around him, to support him through thick and thin with the likes of Jim Edmonds, Yadier Molina, Mark Mulder and Mat Holliday. Each year committing more time and effort to building a team for Pujols that could win or have a chance to win every year. But the key to every team that ever had a chance to sniff the playoffs in the 2000's was Pujols and Pujols alone. He put in the time. He made himself take batting practice till his hands bled. Then wrapped them up and hit some more (true story). He won the MVP's. He sacrificed for the team, playing multiple positions for them before they felt he was worth a permanent spot. He built a major rapport with the city through the Pujols Family Foundation, the Pujols 5 foundation, support for the ADA, and countless camps meet and greets and other efforts that he made to make the city of St. Louis his family. 
Pujols' Family Foundation supports families in the the
Dominican Republic and The Greater St. Louis Area.

But now it feels like a marriage fallen victim to regrets and wandering eyes. 

The St. Louis Cardinals had their chances and are now left with regret. And the more I have read between the lines of their tumultuous contractual history with Albert Pujols the more I see the Cardinals at fault for failure to secure a legend and to supplement him accordingly with help. 

If you look at the points which the Cardinals and Pujols tried to work out deals it sure looks like the Cardinals were low balling in an attempt to get to a point in his career where a his stats would no longer warrant the type of raise he was in line for and when the market over spending wouldn't affect negotiations.

 It came up after 2008, when Pujols won his 2nd MVP, and Teixeira went Bankroll on the Yanks to the tune of 8 years 180 mil. An MVP plus a lesser Talent getting 22.5 per, would have kept the Cards from grabbing Holliday from the A's and wrapping up Pujols. Result? They chose Holliday over Pujols. 
The Cardinals decision to invest in Holliday after one rather than
Pujols boggles the imagination.
Next was the 2009 offseason, one during which Pujols goes all Pujols on us and leads the in OBP, SLG, OPS, Home runs, Intentional walks and gets his third MVP. This coincides with Ryan Howard getting a 5 yr 125 million dollar deal with a built in No Trade Clause. Cardinal’s response? Low ball to Pujols and double down on Matt Holliday for a 7 year 120 million dollar contract that everyone in the Milky Way Universe heard slap Albert Pujols dead in the No surprise that Pujols responds by saying he no longer wants to talk contract and is clearly gearing up for free agency. 

2010. Pujols screws himself by ONLY lead the league in Home Runs, Runs, RBI's and OPS+ and finishing only second in the MVP race. And right after his So-So season, the GM's flip out and start spending money like its black Friday.  Carlos Go 51 over 6, Jayson Werth, 
126 over 7, Troy Tulowitzki, 119 over 6. And lastly, Carl Crawford, 142 over 7. 

Big money. Long Deals. Free agents over paid. Cornerstones locked up. Cornerstones, taken care of and rewarded by their squad

This was the second worst possible scenario for the negotiations between Pujols and St. Louis. The Card's saw these prices and knew that they messed up. That they should have paid Albert before this. When he was ready, when they should have. But after he saw them give their biggest contract ever to Matt Holliday, saw other home grown talents lock up by their clubs, rewarded for much lesser resumes, and saw the free agents mop up the green on the ground, it was the last straw. 

Pujols was hurt. Not physically. Not financially as he was still raking in 16 mil last year, but emotionally. The Team and the city he poured his blood sweat and tears into had basically decided that he wasn't worth money, the risk, the reward. They chose to milk him for what he was worth and go their separate ways. And you could see it. His first half splits were not a factor of age but of mental anguish. His team used him and was ready to throw him away. For ten years these were his first half averages

And his splits for last year’s first half:
Clearly his mind was elsewhere. And then seemingly, he broke. In only the way the greats break. He took it out on his opponents. From June to the World Series, Pujols was well, Pujols. He rebounded nicely with .319/.375/.584 line then went bonkers in the playoffs with a .353/.463/.691 line. He knew that this would be his last year in Cardinal Red and wanted to leave like a champ. And he did just that, while also leaving a nasty   and lasting taste in the mouth of Walt Jocketty and the St. Louis faithful. Bittersweet goodbye indeed.

Pujols could have given the Cards a home town discount. He could have stayed to continue contributing, in person, to his charities and camps in St. Louis. How Could he leave St. Louis? The better question was how could St. Louis let him go? It wasn't the money that mattered. He'll make less money in this contract than he could in Miami or St. Louis due to the insane California state tax structure. It was the RESPECT that mattered. 

Or lack thereof. 

1 comment:

  1. Just a heads up, Walt Jocketty is currently GM of the Reds, he left the Cards a few years back.