I have always been hopeful that loyaly and reason would win out and that Albert Pujols would leave a few million on the table for the Cardinals when he cashes in on his next contract.
But the pre-negotiation posturing is a little bit disturbing.
Earlier this week, Redbirds chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. publicly announced that he has no intention of paying baseball's best player baseball's richest contract. He scoffed at the numbers being batted around, namely the benchmark of $30 million per season and the term of 10 million years, figures set when the Yankees re-signed Alex Rodriguez two years ago.
DeWitt then went on to say that he thinks New York would tear up that A-Rod pact if the club could turn back the hands of time.
Meanwhile, a report in Sports Illustrated indicates that Pujols wants both of those numbers in his deal: $30 million and 10 years.
I haven't given up hope that a deal will be done. But there is more than a year before Pujols is scheduled to hit free agency. With the huge gap between the two sides -- SI's Jon Heyman wrote that Pujols scoffed at the prediction that the Birds would end up paying Pujols $240 million over eight seasons -- and the lack of urgency to get a deal done on the player's part, I fear that Albert is going to enter his walk year without a contract.
And that's going to cause some tense times for Cardinals fans.
On one hand, I can totally appreciate why the mid-market Redbirds are apprehensive about paying New York prices for a player who will be 42 when the proposed contract is up. That's why the Cardinals should have torn up Pujols' current contract three years ago and replaced it with a deal that was more reflective of his value at the time.
Because, on the other hand, I can see where Pujols -- who ranks only as the FIFTH HIGHEST PAID FIRST BASEMAN in the majors and is the 12st highest paid player overall -- feels like he has already done the Cardinals a favor.
If the Cardinals would have renegotiated Pujols' deal three years ago, they not only would have saved money due to inflation and avoided promising a 40-plus player more than a quarter of a million bucks a year... But they wouldn't have an unappreciaed feeling player on their hands.
The only hammer the Redbirds had in this deal was the threat of trading Pujols if he didn't sign. But that option walked out the door when Pujols hit his 10th anniversary with St. Louis at the end of last season.
The best hope of Cardinals fans is that Pujols cares more about the appreciation of St. Louis fans than getting the best deal out of St. Louis owners. The only way he's going to sign before the 2011 season is if he is willing to take about seven years at 27 million, or about $189 million bucks.