December 10, 2011

#Pujols wears a Halo: #Stlcards fans, team try to adapt

OK, it's officially official, no photoshopping needed. I didn't link his FB page, for those who don't follow it, but did a screen grab of ESPN video from the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim and Ticket Turnstiles introducing Albert Pujols today. He's a Angel.

Fans, and fan bloggers, are trying to deal with this in various ways.

On the on-the-field side, one suggests standing pat. Bad idea. With Allan Craig out for some time, things hopeful but not guaranteed on Adam Wainwright, the injury history of Chris Carpenter and all of us still somewhat unsure of just what Jaime Garcia's ceiling is, doing nothing, especially on the batting side (the pitching side is deep and has plenty of prospects in the minors) is not an option.

What IS? Well, Jimmy Rollins is likely to stay in Philly. And, if he wants five years, isn't the answer anyway. Carlos Beltran actually might be, but ... only if the base contract is no more than two years, unless a three-year contract is cheap. If he wants any big money, I wouldn't do it for more than two years. (I'm OK with one, even two, option years.)

Smart could have been resigning Rafael Furcal. Dumb is resigning him ... at $14M for two years. If you're going to nickel-and-dime on Pujols, then you shouldn't waste some of the saved nickels on another contract that's iffy. (Of course, that means Rollins is officially out of the picture now.)

Per Yahoo's free-agent tracker, Michael Cuddyer is another option. So is Josh Willingham. Maybe Jason Kubel. Ryan Ludwick? Only if cheap.

And, that's the bottom line. Pay low where warranted. Look ahead to next year's free agents if you recognize this year is a "gap plugging" year. But, don't insult Cards' fans intelligence by doing nothing, on the one hand, or making cheap bad deals on the other.

Next, by June, wrap up Yadier Molina. Anything reasonable for a great defensive and pitch-calling catcher with a reasonable bat in a pitcher-friendly ballpark is worth it.

Oh, and by the end of 2012, figure out what David Freese is worth, determine if he can avoid nagging injury, and wrap him up for at least the medium term. Determine how healthy Waino is by the end of 2012, too, and see if you can't wrap him up now. But, don't try to lowball him, either.

Off the field? Threatening the Pujols statue? Giving Cards jerseys away for free? Dumb. Move on. But, give yourself some honest reflections, too. This list of Pujols first and lasts as a Redbird is a good starting point.

At the same time, I'm willing to agree, whether from Post-Dispatch insider Bernie Miklasz or SI's Jeff Pearlman, a Pujols ax-grinder, that Pujols was a "load." He did, per the World Series game 2 incident, get "La Russa good old boy" treatment. He was a prima donna. Some of his claimed religiosity may be hypocritical, or at least self-serving.

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