I know a lot of Cardinals fans are sick of hearing about Albert Pujols. And I'm right there with you.
But five days after the St. Louis superstar split the only team he had ever known in the early morning hours, this story is still unfolding in front of the pubic. As a fan -- and as a reporter -- in find it impossible to ignore.
Pujols leaving the Cardinals was so implausible that I didn't read a single free agent story (other than those of Cubs-related blogs) that suggested he would land anywhere else but back in St. Louis when he hit the free market after the 2011 World Series. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Hall of Fame. And Pujols ended up in an Angels jersey while Cardinals fans were left empty handed.
There's no doubt that, while Pujols is the winner in the financial department of this deal, the Cardinals are certainly winning the war of public relations. I talked to my ticket rep today while paying my deposit on 2012 season tickets. And he said the comments fans have been making about the loss of the team's best player in the last 50 years have been overwhelmingly positive.
Most fans seem to believe that Pujols was greedy beyond the club's means to pay him -- a theory I have always been somewhat skeptical about. At least until the Cardinals let it be known that they offered Pujols somewhere between $210-$220 million to pay out the rest of his days in St. Louis and he, instead grabbed for a $254-million deal from the Angels, splitting town after burning his Cardinals legacy to the ground.
Today Albert's wife appeared on St. Louis radio to deny that the Cardinals offer ever happened. She further asked why the Cardinals would have reduced their offer from nine years to five if they were serious about keeping Pujols in St. Louis for life.
All good questions. And I am still waiting to hear what you have to say about this, Mr. DeWitt.
If the Cardinals did oversell their efforts to sign Pujols, it wouldn't have been the first time. Rumors have floated in the past that the team was making high dollar bids for free agents who wanted to come to St. Louis. And later the players say that the Cardinals weren't offering anything close to what was int he press.
It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Cardinals were foot dragging on Pujols. And the whole idea of offering a five-year contract when everyone else in the mix was offering a 10-year deal is a joke. Maybe they could get away with offering an eight-year deal. But you have to be in the ballpark if you expect a hometown discount.
Mrs. Pujols didn't say specifically what the Cardinals' top offer was. It was pretty common information at the time the deal went down the drain that the Redbirds offer was actually for nine years with the tenth year as an option. So, it's reasonable to presume from her statement today that "If that money had been guaranteed we'd be wearing the birds on the bat" that the Cardinals were within one step of bringing Pujols home.
And that makes me want to vomit.
But I have to stress that it takes two sides to make a deal happen. And Pujols seemed to want the Cardinals to kiss his ring in addition to paying him in excess of $200 million. What I really want to know is did Pujols or his agent ever tell the Cardinals specifically that he would sign if they would guarantee the 10th year of the contract? Or did they just sit back and wait to see what their highest offer would be?
While I don't have a problem believing that the Cardinals were willing to let Pujols walk, I still think if Pujols really was determined to remain in St. Louis that there was a place in the middle to make it happen.