Tomorrow is going to be a big day for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, one way or the other. They are negotiating a new contract with superstar first baseman, Albert Pujols...and he has told them that he is not going to negotiate any further once spring training starts. Since training officially begins today, time is of the essence, but...the actual deadline is tomorrow at 12 Noon. One might ask, what is the big deal? Well, Albert has asked the Cardinals for $300 million over 10 years, which if we do our math, is $30 a year. That is no small chunk of change. In fact, it would make him the best paid player of all time to this point. There are multiple issues with this entire scenario. It is apparent that Pujols is getting intense pressure from the MLB players association to press for this contract, as it will set a new "high standard" to which all players can be measured. The thinking is -- if Albert gets this significant raise, as the best player in the game today, then we all are going to benefit, as our salaries will also go up. Another issue is that St. Louis isn't exactly a large market team like the Yankees, Red Sox or Angels...they are a mid-market team that has already spent some significant money on free agents the past couple of years. The Cardinals would probably be willing to give Pujols 6 or 7 years at $30 million, but if they were to go the whole ten years, he would be 41 years old at the end of the contract...and too much can go wrong over the life of a ten year contract (see Alex Rodriguez). Yet, another issue is -- how can the Cardinals just let the best player in the game walk away as a free agent at the end of this baseball year? They really can't allow this to happen, but they will if there is no budging on Pujols' part.
So...this is the dilemma. The one variable may actually be the one thing that is "supposedly written in stone"...and this concerns the deadline set for tomorrow. Albert doesn't want it to be a distraction to the team once spring training begins. There is no way that all of this would not be, as the media has already been riding this topic for some weeks now. It is going to continue until he gets signed or tests the free agent market. If there is some significant progress today and tomorrow, the bet is that there will be another extension to get a deal done. From all reports, Albert would like to stay in St. Louis, and the Cardinals would surely love to keep him. However, it is all still very much up in the air. Personally, I think it is good for baseball that Pujols stays in St. Louis. The other large market teams that can afford him already have key people at first base, so there is not a huge need...except in Chicago with the Cubs. This is a scenario that would be a worst-case nightmare for the Cardinals, who view the Cubs as their biggest rival. I can't imagine that the Cardinals brass could stomach the thought of Pujols in a Cubs uniform, but I bet all of the long-suffering Cubs fans out there would love to see it. Hang on...we'll see what transpires.