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Pujols sets deadline

Apparently Albert Pujols and his representatives don't share the Cardinals front office's casual outlook about contract negotiations.

According to reports, Pujols' people informed the Redbirds that if a deal doesn't get done they won't negotiate after the start of spring training. That's less than a month away -- pitchers and catchers report Feb. 14.

Last week team Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. told Fox Sports that negotiations hadn't progressed very far... But he wasn't worried about it because there were two and a half months to go before the opening day. The fact that Pujols' people publicly nixed DeWitt's deliberate plans isn't a good thing. It's the first sign of discord in the negotiations -- and it seems pretty clear that the players' representatives are getting frustrated.

I just don't get why the Cardinals are dragging their feet on this issue. Pujols was perturbed at this time last year when the team said that it was going to try to extend him before the start of the 2010 season -- but then talks never got off the ground. The only thing that can happen if the club isn't negotiating in good faith is making Albert resolved to test the open market.

It has done the Redbirds absolutely no good to put things off. Every day they wait brings Albert one step closer to free agency. Every contract that is signed in the meantime -- Ryan Howard's... Jayson Werth's... Carl Crawford's -- drives up the bottom line.

Pujols has said repeatedly that he wants to remain in St. Louis. And I have long believed that the only way he wouldn't remain here is if the Cardinals screwed up the dealings. It seems as if they are hellbent on doing just that.

The price isn't going to go down. Either the Birds are committed to keeping Albert or they're not. And, so far at least, they have given zero indication that they are willing to pay the price.

I am not looking forward to the possibility of Pujols entering the 2011 season without a contract because, if that happens, the likelihood he returns for 2012 decreases drastically.

What a bucket of ice cold water on the Winter Warm-Up.