I wonder if the Cardinals have been dragging their feet on the Albert Pujols contract situation because they believe major changes are coming in baseball's collective bargaining system.
The current agreement between the teams and their players expires after the end of the 2011 season. And there is some momentum growing for a salary cap to be included in the next contract.
I can imagine that the Cardinals don't want to agree to pay Pujols the richest contract in major league history -- just in time for a long-awaited pay cap that would have othewise saved the team millions of dollars.
Paying Pujols big dollars and then having a cap imposed on top of it could cause problems for a decade to come. Or it could force the Birds to release Pujols so they could have enough money to go around for a whole roster.
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If a salary cap is put in place, it will be interesting to see where it is set. It's nearly impossible to imagine players going for major cuts in pay. But a cap would have to be set lower than the levels some teams are already paying for players or it would make no sense at all.
If the cap is put at $200 million to accomodate the Yankees, they might as well not even put in a cap at all because it is going to do nothing to make teams like the Pirates, Royals and Indians more competitive. The limit has to be set at a mark that all of the teams are capable of reaching to balance the playing field. I'm guessing that mark would probably have to be somewhere below the $100 million mark.
The only way I can see that happening is if the current players' contracts are grandfathered in. That means that the collective bargaining agreement would have to be lengthy because there are some players in the game who have contracts that are good for seven or eight years.
If contracts are grandfathered in, it creates an uncomfortable situation with Pujols. Because of the coming cap, he would be the last superstar to become a free agent in an uncapped year. So he might have more incentive to hold out for that 10-year, $30 million deal which would likely make him the highest-paid player in baseball history forever.
I'd really like to see owners put their foot down for a cap -- even if it means there is a work stoppage in 2012. Everything about baseball is too expensive for the average joe. If costs can't be rolled back to a more reasonable level, at least it would help the game to make all of baseball's teams a factor in the playoff race.