Cheap Seats

Pujols reaction

I’ve had a couple of readers e-mail me to suggest I try to organize a boycott of a Cardinals game to send a message to the team about the Albert Pujols situation.

My first thought was that these folks greatly overestimate my reach, not to mention any power I have to sway Cardinals fans. And my second was that I’m not throwing out my tickets -- that have already been paid for -- to make a futile point. So I doubt anyone else is going to do that, either.

Even if Redbirds rooters were that passionate and coordinated about Pujols’ pending free agency, not everyone is of the same opinion. So I expect that such a boycott would go about as well as when people try to organize a don’t buy gas on Friday sort of protest over oil prices: If it makes a difference at all, I’m sure it’s not enough that one really notices.

But it made me wonder what people think fans should do, if anything, to have a voice in this matter.

I hear some people say that they plan to boo Pujols during opening day festivities. I have heard others say that they support his position over that of the Cardinals, so those folks plan to give him an extra loud standing ovation.

My gripe is less with the player or the team than it is with the system. People say all the time that “it’s great to spend other people’s money” when they talk about the Cardinals’ payroll moves or the lack thereof. But it is our money. Without the fans, Pujols couldn’t get $30,000 a year to play baseball, much less $30 million. Because of a lack of a salary cap -- or any loyalty from the players to the teams or their fans at all -- only one thing is certain: When 2012 rolls around, Pujols will be rich, the owners will be rich and the fans opinion won’t matter a lick. St. Louis rooters will be expected to show up and fork over their money to see the Cardinals because that’s what we do.

If I had the ability to organize anything, I think it would send a very powerful message on March 31st if Cardinals fans suddenly fell silent as the motorcade hit the field. Don’t boo. Don’t be ugly. Just be quiet. Let the people who pay the bills as well as the ones who play in front of the most loyal fans in baseball have a taste of what it would be like if we weren’t there.

Could you imagine the message it would send when Redbirds rooters were expected to cheer and shout like they always do... but all you could hear is the sound of crickets chirping? Maybe it would help Major League Baseball appreciate the fans a little bit if they got an uncomfortably taste of what it would be like if we all just stayed home.

If the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the flagship franchises in Major League Baseball, can’t afford to keep their homegrown superstar, there is something terminally wrong with baseball finances.

The whole baseball economic system has to be rolled back to the point of some semblance of sanity. Like the days when the best players only made something like $5 million a year to hit a little white horsehide ball.

Baseball desperately needs a salary cap -- and a franchise tag that lets every team hang onto its best player. Unfortunately, it seems like Pujols leaving St. Louis might be the only thing that makes something like that happen.