Buried inside a story today on the website of the Post Dispatch was this interesting little tidbit about the Albert Pujols negotiations:
“Citing the ‘sensitive” status of talks as deadline for a resolution approaches, Mozeliak declined to say whether the team had extended a formal offer to Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano … The Cardinals had not tendered an offer as of early last week but, according to a source familiar with talks, were expected to present a bid closer to the Feb. 15 deadline set last month by Lozano.”
I can appreciate the usefulness of patience and slow-playing a hand during negotiations. Someone in Bill DeWitt’s position doesn’t want to reveal too much about his position to his “opposition” and give away the bank – I get that. And we are talking about the WHOLE bank; it’s not like these two sides are haggling over the price of an apricot. Such enormous numbers need time to even sink in before they can be really discussed in depth.
But what has this “slow play” by DeWitt really accomplished? First of all, it has created the very media frenzy that Albert Pujolsand the organization despise, leading to something vaguely resembling a “he said / he said” back-and-forthing among industry types. NOT HEALTHY. The constant media speculation has already produced some uncomfortable whoppers to be accepted as fact, and further delays only drag this process further into the bog of innuendo and speculation.
Even worse, the long wait forced on Pujols by the organization has only hardened his position. The hometown discount Pujols discussed in lush, sepia-tinted tones back in 2009 has all but evaporated after the club refused to talk before the 2010 season. The foot-dragging continued after the end of the season as well, to the point that Pujols created a deadline for talks – never a good sign in any negotiation. The inability of this organization to come to some sort of conclusion about this situation has done nothing but alter Pujols’ view of being a Cardinal for life – and that maybe he doesn’t need to be that anymore.
The larger question about the tactics employed here by DeWitt and John Mozeliak involves strategy. Everyone in baseball knew this day was coming, including (presumably) DeWitt. Where was the preparation? Why has it had to come down to the last second to even make an offer to the man? If the owner of the team didn’t want to pay Pujols that kind of money, why didn’t they trade him when they had the chance? If they wanted to keep him, why wouldn’t these shrewd businessmen know to lock him up quickly before the ever-increasing market ballooned again?
Not having an offer to Pujols after two years is beyond ridiculous. Not having some sort of organizational plan to deal with the greatest baseball player in a generation is even more inexcusable.