Albert Takes the Money and Runs

click to enlarge Something tells us Pujols ornaments will not be a hot seller this Christmas.
Something tells us Pujols ornaments will not be a hot seller this Christmas.
You know, there are a couple of things that really bother me about Albert Pujols bolting for the coast. I'll get to those in a moment, though. First, let me tell you what doesn't bother me about this. 

I am not angry at Pujols for taking the money. Hey, the Angels offered him a stupid amount of money over a stupidly long time. You want the money? Fine. Go get it. I don't have any problem at all with a player taking the best deal he can get. It's that player's right as a free agent. 

I am not angry with the Cardinals for refusing to do something stupid. In fact, I honestly think the team kind of dodged a bullet here. They pushed well beyond what I thought was a reasonable place to go when they started talking about ten years, to be frank. Hell, if I were running the team I would have offered 6 years at $156 million and told Albert to piss off if he wanted more years. However, that's probably why I'm not the general manager of a major league baseball team. 

There are two things, though, which are really sticking in my craw after all this madness of the past 24 hours. 

First, I said before I didn't mind Albert taking the bigger deal, and I meant it. But you know what I do mind? When someone who just took the bigger deal tries to wrap it up in fancy bullshit paper and make it seem like he didn't just take the big payday. 

Albert has already said god led him to the Angels. He's said he and his wife prayed on it, and he felt like he could do good in Los Angeles, so that's where he went. 

Really? We're expected to just accept that wagonload of horseshit? God told him to go play baseball somewhere else? And the money was...what? Just a happy coincidence? Or is god now fed up with bilking people out of their hard-earned dollars through organized religion and has now decided to just directly tell people to go take the big contract and then give it all to him? I will admit, it would probably be more efficient. 

I don't mind religious people, so long as they aren't either a) trying to force their belief down my throat, or b) wrapping up their actions in the flag of piety to justify whatever they felt like doing. And that latter, my friends, is exactly what Albert Pujols is doing right now. 

Albert wanted the big pay day. He wanted the respect that he things that money signifies. He wanted someone to tell him they love him thiiissss much. (I'm holding my arms way apart like a kid asking for a hug, in case you can't see that on your computer screen.) He wanted to look at his paycheck and know it is bigger than everybody else's. And now he wants us all to believe in the image of the Golden Boy Albert again, so he trots out his faith to explain why he left St. Louis for a bigger contract. 

That's one thing that really bugs me about all of this. 

The other thing is actually much more about baseball, and much less likely to inspire a bunch of pissed-off comments left for this post. (Which I'm very much looking forward to reading, by the way.) The other thing which really bothers me is the position the Cardinals now find themselves in, thanks to Team Pujols dragging out this process. There are no good Plan Bs really left out there. 

While the Cardinals were waiting for Albert to hear the voice of god sending him to Southern California, the rest of the league didn't just hang around and do nothing to make sure there were other players left to sign in case things went bad. 

Jose Reyes was the absolute perfect Plan B for the Cards. Plays a position of need, elite player, two years younger than Pujols, four years shorter on the contract. In fact, I said it Wednesday writing for Viva El Birdos, and I'll it again now: I would have rather given Reyes 6 years at $17.5 million (roughly), per year than go a full decade for Pujols. So, honestly, Reyes probably would have been my Plan A. But, I can't blame the Cardinals for wanting to keep their franchise legend around. 

Unfortunately, the Marlins snatched Jose Reyes up, and there wasn't nearly as much subterfuge involved. So, the best Plan B for the Cardinals, gone. 

Hey, Mark Buerhle would have looked pretty good finally wearing the Birds on the Bat, right? Don't get me wrong; Buerhle wasn't going to make up for losing Pujols by himself, but Buerhle is still a surprisingly good pitcher year in year out, and he's been one of the most durable performers in all of baseball. Adding him to the rotation would have been a nice upgrade over either Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook

Well, guess what? Marlins got Buerhle, too. Gave him a bigger contract than I think anyone expected, but he'll probably be worth it, honestly, unless he takes a rather large turn for the worse very soon. (Plus, I would be willing to bet the Cards could have probably gotten him a little cheaper. In case you hadn't heard, he kind of wanted to play here.) He would have been a very moderate upgrade, yes, but with a large chunk of payroll now just laying around, the Cards could have afforded to make that upgrade, particularly considering they have a combined $21 million worth of pitcher contracts coming off the books after the 2012 season. 

Hey, Jimmy Rollins is still out there right? Well, yeah. Only problem is, Jimmy Rollins is even older than Albert, and just not all that good anymore. That tends to happen to shortstops as they move deeper into their thirties. He's not a bad player, mind you, just one who's on the wrong side of 30 and declining and will still want a four- or five-year deal. 

Unless the Cards want to go after Prince Fielder -- and I really don't believe they do -- it's going to be tough to land a real significant impact player at this point. By waiting on Pujols and doing nothing, the Cardinals lost out on their best chances to improve the team. 

And that's the other thing that really bugs me about all of this. 

In the end, Albert got he wanted, and I can't blame him. The Cardinals made the smart decision for the long-term health of the franchise, and I definitely can't fault them. 

That doesn't mean it doesn't still suck a little bit this morning to know Albert Pujols the Player -- which is the only Albert Pujols I personally ever cared about -- is not going to be taking the field for the St. Louis Cardinals ever again. 
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