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Pujols and the specualtion that wouldn't die

I really hoped that we could finally stop talking about the Albert Pujols situation now that the contract talks are over.

But it still seems to be the only thing everyone I run into wants to talk about.

This morning at the gas station a couple of old timers were debating the Cardinals' decision not to offer the best player in baseball a market value contract.

While one of them argued the mind-numbingly frustrating position that the Cardinals should spend the money they were going to spend on Pujols to buy three superstars on the free agent market, the other had a position that was even more astounding.

He said the Cardinals can't pay Pujols $30 million because the other players on the team would be jealous and it would create a rift in the clubhouse.

"Really?"

Every time the top dog gets a bigger deal, it pushes the market up for everyone beneath him. That's why I have argued time and time again that I don't mind the idea of the greatest player in the game making movie star money. He's the guy who puts people in the seats and creates the ridiculous revenue that makes that sort of payday possible.

What bothers me is when your utility infielder makes $5 million a year. Like I said a couple of years ago, no one not in his immediate family evey bought a ticket to see Adam Kennedy play baseball. He might be a useful fielder who contributes to the success of the team. But he doesn't directly make the club any money. And he could likely be replaced by about three dozen guys.

Meanwhile, a couple of days ago you'd be hard pressed to find a national baseball pundit who didn't believe that Pujols would ultimately end up inking a deal with St. Louis.

Now you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a scribe who is writing the obituary of Pujols' Cardinals career.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports said he thinks the Cardinals' gambit of letting Pujols hit the market in hopes of baseball's best player finding that no one is willing to outbid St. Louis' offer is pure folly.

"When it comes to guessing the price of great players in free agency, I always bet the ‘over.’ Even less-than-great players often are overpaid in the open market," Rosenthal said. "Albert Pujols will not be an exception. When Pujols arrives at spring training on Thursday, he will be beginning his last season in a Cardinals uniform.”

ESPN's Jayson Stark agreed.

“Even after the news conference Wednesday, even after they explained how they got to this unthinkable point, it's still hard to make sense of what the St. Louis Cardinals have allowed to happen here: Albert Pujols is about to become a free agent?" Stark said. "How? Why? How could they possibly think this is a good idea? ‘The bottom line is,’ an official of one team said Wednesday, ‘Albert Pujols is their team. Without him, they're an ordinary team . . . And they can't replace him. Nobody can replace him. He's an irreplaceable guy.’”

Still, Pujols sounded upbeat when he arrived at Roger Dean Stadium to meet a throng of reporters.

"Not disappointed," Pujols told the media of his feeling following failed contract talks. "It's negotiations. It happens. Two sides didn't get together and get an agreement and that's the way it goes. It's negotiations. You can't get disappointed. You know why? Because I still have another chance after the season and maybe we'll get something done then."

Maybe. But if the Cardinals front office folks have a collective brain between them, they'll tactfully ask Albert during the All-Star Break if they can have a 24-hour window to hammer things out.

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