The Spring has come and Albert is unsigned.
Albert Pujols, the best baseball player on the planet and the first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals is about to embark on the final year of his contract with what appears to be every intention of exploring free agency in the fall. I have read much of what's been written and seen much of what's been shown on this and I've formed my own ideas about this whole affair and I've put them down below.
I think everybody should calm down. We've a whole season to go and the Cardinals will field a competitive team once again. Don't miss the ride just because you don't like the bump at the end. And . . .
I think we should remember that free agency is part of our world and stop being romantic. Many have bemoaned the "lack of loyalty" and "greed" that appears to be on display. We've had free agency since the mid-70's and this is the landscape and has been for two generations or so. "Happily Ever After" is great, but it's not real, it's in storybooks. I don't like it any more than the next guy, I despise Marvin Miller for his role in bringing it to pass and a pox on anyone who advocates his election to the Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, it's here and "happily ever after" is not. To that end . . .
I think we need to stop comparing Albert Pujols to Stan Musial. I understand all the reasons a person is tempted to do so. I would never say that Musial was anything but loyal, but he also didn't have Pujols' opportunities. (And don't mention the Mexican League thing - it's apples to oranges.) Players didn't have the option of playing out the contract and signing elsewhere in Stan's day. The Reserve Clause bound a player to a team. I get that Stan and Albert were/are the greatest of their day and that both played for the Cardinals and that both are honorable men. But comparing them is like comparing a Philco radio to an iphone. Different eras.
I think the Cardinals have been planning for this all along. Up until Pujols hits the market, St. Louis is bidding against themselves. To sign him, the Cardinals have to give him his price. Come the fall, the market will determine what a 32 year-old hitter who is nicked up every year is worth. Granted, he is an historically great 32 year-old hitter.
I think Albert's position is primarily about respect and not about dollars per se.This may be a little hard to grasp for some. Year-in and year-out Pujols is reminded that he is the best player in the game. He's won 3 National League MVP awards and was second in that voting 4 other times. In 10 years! He is the best and, accordingly, he wants the best contract. He's not thinking about dollars like you and I think about dollars. He's thinking about respect and place and honor. The dollars are just the scoreboard.
I think Albert will sign with the Cardinals when all is said and done. I might be wrong but as I said above, I think the Cardinals have been prepping for this. They want Albert and Albert wants to be in St. Louis, though not at any price. I think free agency will set the price and the Cardinals will pay it and Albert will sign. That said . . . .
I think a wicked part of me wonders what Albert would look like in a Red Sox uniform and taking dead aim at the Green Monster 81 games a year for the next decade. Wow.