Cheap Seats

Showing Pujols the love

There's a story floating around the internet about a Cardinals bleacher fan who is trying to organize a rally outside of Busch Stadium designed to push the team into re-signing its megastar.

He said he hopes to impress both the player and the owner how much Albert is wanted in St. Louis, and it's an admirable undertaking.

But it strikes me that it doesn't really matter how much Pujols thinks Cardinals fans love and respect him. What it's come down to is how much he feels the owners of the team appreciate his presence on their roster and in the community.

It's obvious how the fans feel about Pujols. I was lucky enough to be in the park during the 2009 All-Star game when he received the loudest ovation during his introduction that I have ever heard for a player in St. Louis. Even louder than when Stan Musial comes to games to wave at the fans or play his harmonica. It was really something to behold. And it wasn't lost on Pujols. I happened to look up at a monitor just in time to see his reaction in a single, telling word that even the worst lip reader could make out: "Wow."

As well as he has been supported over the last decade, Cardinals fans reached for another level and deeply touched Pujols with their outpouring of respect and admiration.

Trust me. Pujols knows he is beloved here. And he also knows that he will probably be beloved anywhere else he chooses to take his talents.

What he also knows is that he has been underpaid - in relative terms -- as a major league superstar. I have heard fans accuse him of being greedy. And, on one level, they're right. How much cash can one guy spend in a lifetime? He's already made more than $100 million playing baseball. Shouldn't he take less money for the priviledge of playing in front of the red sea of fans in St. Louis? But on a more basic level, Pujols knows he fills the Cardinals coffers will tens of millions of dollars in revenue and that a lot of people are in the ballpark primarily to see him play. I could see how he could be a little bit offended that ownership wants him to take less of the money he brings in -- out of the goodness of his heart -- for but one reason: So they can make more.

Let's not forget that their stewardship of the Cardinals hasn't exactly driven the team's owners to the poor house. They bought the club for $150 million including the old Busch Stadium and the two stadium parking garages. Then they sold the parking garages for $90 million. That's a $60 million investment or a club that Forbes magazine said it worth nearly 10 times that much today. The magazine also speculates that the Birds have a revenue stream amougst the top third of major league clubs and that it generates a healthy profit.

The club complains about its "privately funded stadium" even though us taxpayers have footed the vast majority of the bill. Meanwhile they have much less money laid out in the purchase of the club than many other teams.

I wish us fans showing Pujols the love was enough to get him to stay. But the only way it is going to happen is for the owners to give him a contract that is arguably befitting the best player in the game. it's sad the will of the people who pay the freight to make major league baseball possible get no say in matters like this.

But that's the way it is. And, sadly, that's the way it will stay.