The United Cardinal Bloggers has been having a healthy discussion on all things baseball and St. Louis Cardinals this month. The debate has been a fun way to start the offseason and it’s always nice to interact with other Cards bloggers. The UCB showcases a number of Cards blogs and it really shows the depth of great St. Louis baseball blogs on the web. My turn in the roundtable came up last week and I couldn’t avoid the elephant in the room.
St. Louis has been avoiding the topic to the best of its ability, but with every passing day, it gets harder to ignore. Since Ryan Howard signed his five-year $125 million deal, Cardinals Nation has been through every emotion surrounding its superstar Albert Pujols. The team may not be able to afford Pujols if he demands a deal much larger than his slugging first baseman counterpart. The thought alone makes St. Louis and the organization feel a little sick. Pujols has been the face of the franchise and Major League Baseball for the last decade. He’s on track to go down as one of the all-time greats. He’s history in the making. A legend. Beyond Baseball. It’s that simple. And finally, he is St. Louis Cardinals baseball in the 21st Century. A player of such magnitude should never wear another uniform after a decade with one. But in this money-crazed world, anything can happen.
My question to the UCB:
My gut feeling is that there is no way Pujols could leave St. Louis. He’s too good on and off the field. But the people who know about money question how the Cards will be able to afford him (I’m hoping Pujols could take less money to retire as a Redbird, but money always seems to get in the way). So, if Pujols has to leave St. Louis, what is the one team you would root for to land him? Or, would you rather see the front office pay him a ridiculous contract that could potentially hurt the organization’s ability to be competitive, but at least keep Pujols where he belongs?
Tom Knuppel, Cardinals GM:
If Albert goes to another team, I hope it is Kansas City. He could go home. But more likely he will go to a city with a large Hispanic population.
As far as paying him, we have to have limits, it can’t be endless.
Chris Reed, Bird Brained:
I would rather see the Cardinals keep Pujols and raise payroll so his salary doesn’t cripple the team. I believe they can field a competitive and complete team that includes Pujols but has a payroll around $120 million, maybe even a little less. It’s higher, but not what I’d consider outrageous.
If he does leave, I hope he goes to the Chicago White Sox. I’ve kind of adopted them as my AL team since my girlfriend is a former South Sider and they have no rivalry whatsoever against the Cards. Plus it would drive Cubs fans crazy…
Dennis Lawson, Pitchers Hit Eighth:
As I understand the parameters here, the choices are a) Pujols goes to another team, or b) Pujols signs an extension that cripples the team financially. There is no option c) Pujols signs extension that doesn’t cripple the team. I’d have to vote for option “a” and root for him to land with either the Mets or the Angels. Pujols on the Mets would push their payroll through the roof while simultaneously pushing the Phillies a bit harder in the NL East. Sending Albert to the Angels gets him out of the NL entirely. Those are the only 2 teams that could potentially afford the contract and not immediately become contenders as a result.
Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat:
Honestly, I’m not sure I might not fit in the minority. I’m really thinking you pay whatever you have to for Pujols. Necessity is somewhat the mother of invention, so you’d have to hope that the drafting and development side of the Cards worked out, but I’m not sure I’m emotionally up to the sight of AP in any kind of other uniform.
Besides, if you pay him, you have the best player in baseball for a couple of years, one of the best players for a few years more, and an above-average (though likely overpaid) player for a few years after that. When you factor in how payroll, salaries and everything else will likely rise over the span of the contract, that bloated amount at the end might not be quite as bad as it looks.
In other words, I’d gamble that the Cards could make things work around a well-paid Pujols rather than shipping him off and hoping that replacements would cover the slack.
Jacqueline Conrad, Cardinal Diamond Diaries:
I can’t imagine Albert Pujols in anything but a Cardinal uniform. DeWitt and his moneymen need to figure out a way to pay him whatever it takes to keep him a Cardinal. The fans have shown more than enough support to enable ownership to pay Albert and increase the payroll enough to stay competitive and still be a financially viable franchise.
Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba:
Musial, Pujols, Gibson are the most special players in franchise history. Cards shouldn’t repeat the mistake Sam Breadon made with Rogers Hornsby. Pay the price. Keep Pujols.
Joseph McBrayer, The McBrayer-Baseball Blog:
In my opinion the Cardinals owners don’t tell us the full story when it comes to revenue and exactly how much money there is to pour into the team. What ever the price tag is for Albert, they can afford. I recall Albert telling the media one time that Stan Musial changed his life, he is the reason I want to stay a Cardinal for the rest of my life.
I am a big believer in loyalty even though it continues to die in professional sports. Few moments are greater than seeing a players finish his career with the same team he started. It just feels right and special. Cal Ripken, Jr., Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn, and Craig Biggio are just a few that have done so. But it’s becoming a rarity in sports today. Chipper Jones should end his Hall of Fame career in Atlanta. And the Yankees shouldn’t have to think twice about re-signing Derek Jeter. He should only ever wear the Pinstripes. Albert Pujols is in the same class as Jeter and the rest. Mark Tomasik said it best above:
“Musial, Pujols, Gibson are the most special players in franchise history. Cards shouldn’t repeat the mistake Sam Breadon made with Rogers Hornsby. Pay the price. Keep Pujols.”