Every leak coming from the meetings between Albert Pujols and the Cardinals indicates that, in all probability, the team will end up in a bidding war with baseball’s richest franchises next winter for the game’s best player. So I thought it might be time to slip into Albert’s shoes and consider his alternatives.
The very suggestion is abhorrent – Albert Pujols … a Cub? Yet that nightmare scenario could play out next winter. Strategically, the Cubs have played this ridiculously well, with massive amounts of money coming off the books just in time to throw it at a real game changer like Pujols. Additionally, the Cubs signed Carlos Pena to a one year contract at first base in order to keep their options wide open in anticipation of reeling in a big, big fish. Like a lion, the Cubs have cunningly laid in the tall grass and waited patiently for their prey to lose their balance. And yes, I realize I’m slightly mixing metaphors there.
But with most of the cards in Albert’s possession at the moment, it’s really only his opinion that matters. What might be the pros and cons of accepting an offer from Chicago?
1. The big advantage, of course, is money. The Cubs are a larger-market team that has never been shy about huge contracts. A contract like the one Pujols is reportedly pursuing would fit easily within the expensive sandbox Chicago enjoys. A Chicago offer would make Pujols the game’s premiere player financially, and it would come without the embarrassing haggling going on with the Cardinals.
2. To Pujols, nothing matters more than winning and his legacy in the game. While moving to Chicago might not bring Pujols many championships – their track record speaks for itself – the larger market would boost Pujols’ profile to stratospheric levels.
This second point is important, because Pujols has spent the last ten years of his career – possibly the best ten years anyone has ever had – laboring in the St. Louis market like the ugliest red-headed orphan in Annie (oh, wait … that WAS Annie…). Media on both sides of the country routinely ignore the St. Louis market. Pujols only managed to make a mark in baseball because he was so damned good for so long. It’s clear that Pujols wants to be remembered as the best – but can he do that in St. Louis? How often is Stan Musial mentioned among the greats when fans outside St. Louis discuss them??
3. A much smaller ballpark would significantly boost Pujols’ power numbers over the course of ten years. It might mean an extra 50-100 more home runs (over ten years) than if he stayed in Busch Stadium. That is important. Pujols is pursuing Alex Rodriguez for the all-time home run title (currently held by Barry Bonds), and if he achieves that goal he will be immortalized as the greatest player to have ever played the game. Believe me, Pujols wants that badly. That particular carrot might prove too tempting to ignore.
1. There is every reason to believe that Pujols dislikes the Chicago Cubs. While he tries to remain neutral publicly, his production often tells how he feels; he tends to rise to certain occasions. Pujols has hit more home runs against the Cubs in his career than any other team. Also, Pujols tends to follow the lead of his mentor, Tony LaRussa, who has left little doubt about his feelings for the Cubs.
2. With a larger market and larger contract, comes more scrutiny. Pujols has been sheltered and nurtured in St. Louis, showered daily with love and adoration for his amazing feats. Could he possibly expect such treatment in Chicago, where the tempers whip around harder and colder than the air does in the outfield at Wrigley in March? What might the reception be in Chicago when Albert is 38 years old and collecting a $30+ million dollar check for 25 home runs a year?
3. It’s just ugly. Aside from the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, there may not be bad blood anywhere in the sport as vicious as the hatred between the Cubs and Cardinals. Albert Pujols wearing a Cubs uniform would be like seeing Jesus sodomize children. When Jim Edmonds joined the Cubs, St. Louisans nearly ripped his F15teen club apart; can you imagine the outcry if Albert bolted to the enemy? I wouldn’t rule out suicide bombers.
So now it’s your turn to play. Vote on your opinion: