September 28, 2011

#StlCards Pujols fans probably pleading to wrong guy

Hey, Cards fans at Busch Stadium Sunday? If you really want Albert Pujols to stay, you shouldn't (just) have been addressing pleas down to the stadium below, but up to the ownership box. Will Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak make a better, a significantly better offer, than the 10 years, $191 million that was the last thing they floated in public before spring training?

UPDATE: That said, you can plead away at least one more game, to Pujols, owner Bill DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak, as WE GO TO THE PLAYOFFS!

You probably also should have called some of your friends on the phone, per the story, to be at the stadium. Second inning? Last home game of the year? Playing the Cubs? Fighting for a playoff spot? And there are still noticeable empty seats/seat areas? What, has Busch become Dodger Stadium?

And, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which reminds us of an overtone, or undercurrent: Was this the last game with the Birds on Bats for The Machine? Meanwhile, he's 1 RBI short of 100, and got a hit, so holding onto .300 chances.

Anyway,  will Bill and Mo come through? Maybe not. Per this Joe Strauss column it doesn't sound highly likely. And, it sounds like Mo, and maybe Bill, have already halfway conceded that. 

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak offer reserved testimonials while acknowledging they have no idea where the next two-to-three months will take the relationship with a player who next year almost certainly would surpass Stan Musial as the franchise home run leader.

"It's the era we're in,'' Dewitt said. "Many times they sign back with the same club. With a legendary player like Albert, you hope he stays his whole career with the Cardinals, like Stan did. But that process is going to take place and we're not sure how it's going to play out. I'm sure he's not sure either at this point.''

"When you reflect on his career, it's been a historic run for he and the St. Louis Cardinals,'' Mozeliak said. "As far as our mindset, we still believe there is a chance that Albert will be wearing a Cardinal uniform in 2012."

Strauss goes on to note the team reportedly isn't ready to budge above a rumored eight-nine years, $22-23 million per year contract and may even be wanting to shorten that. (Also note: the last public offer by the team was 10 years, $191 million.)

That only intensifies my guess that it's 50-50 he goes elsewhere. Cubs still rank No. 1 as a landing spot, at least if Pujols has revenge on his mind. Dodgers are No. 2 if Bud Selig can ram through his forced sale soon enough. Braves, with room to spend, are No. 3 and Angels are No. 4. I think the White Sox are No. 5.

I don't know why neither the Braves nor White Sox are on most radar screens. The Braves are one good, experienced bat away from overtaking the  aging Phillies in the NL East. The ChiSox are a competitive team who have money to spend. I know the Braves of the past haven't been major free agent players, but things can change.

That's five teams with legitimate money to spend. Nos. 3-5 are some sort of contenders right now and would be on the A-list of teams to beat if they added Pujols. So, if Mo is thinking there will be a soft market, he's betting wrong.

Others? Mets' financial pic is messier than the Dodgers. The Nats do like to spend, and might come up on the outside. I still really don't see the Yankees involved unless A-Rod, Tex or Albert plays DH, and they'd still have to eat a LOT of money for that. (And don't forget C.C. Sabathia's opt-out.) Red Sox are at their max on payroll.

And, if he moves on? Jimmy Rollins would be an OK free agent pickup, if the price is right. Looking ahead another year? I expect Mo to look at both 1B and 3B free agents for 2013, with the idea that if he doesn't re-extend Lance Berkman, David Freese could be moved across the diamond. No, that wouldn't be ideal, but I'm sure Mo's already thinking about that possibility. Mo will probably wait as long as possible this year to make an improved Pujols offer, anyway. If he sees Prince Fielder move on, and the Reds make no big moves, he knows he can compete in the NL Central for the next two years anyway.

As for Cards fans invoking the sainted name of Stan Musial as a reason for Albert to stay? Get real. If Stan were playing today, he'd likely hold out for the best, or near-best, deal. Besides, both loyalty and lack thereof is a two-way street. After all, the team more than once entertained serious trade offers for Stan the Man.

Finally, while the team's resigning of Pujols may affect Tony La Russa's decision on whether or not to return, despite occasional public protestations of loyalty by Albert, I don't think the other is necessarily true. That said, managerial issues might steer him away from the Cubs. And Latino affinity might give the White Sox and Braves a bump.

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