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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #2: Pujols leaves

Only in a year that his team, the St. Louis Cardinals, won the ultimate prize, the World Championship, could the surprise departure of Albert Pujols not be named the top story of the year.

Yet in terms of long-term ramifications to both the player and his former club, the 31-year-old’s decision to sign a 20-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will be felt long after the 2011 Cardinals become ex-champions.

Announced on December 8, the new deal is for the next 10 years followed by a personal services contract for the next decade and could yield the first baseman $260 million. This fall, Pujols had become a free agent for the first time after 11 record-breaking years with the Cardinals.

Up until almost the end, many baseball observers and therefore, many fans, felt that Pujols and the Cardinals would eventually come to a satisfactory agreement.

In the spring, Pujols had reportedly turned down an offer from St. Louis that was worth $198 million over nine years, instead preferring to test the open market. The club later also made a $26 million per year offer over five years that apparently insulted the native of the Dominican Republic, despite its annual amount being second-highest in baseball history. The club also extended its nine-year offer to a tenth year. That $210 million proposal reportedly included $30 million deferred without interest, however, falling far short of the Anaheim offer in cash.

While shocked the day finally come, many Cardinals observers were still prepared for the reality that St. Louis was not willing to top all offers. A majority of fans may have accepted both sides’ positions had Pujols and his wife not damaged their credibility by asserting their decision was not about the money. 82 percent of fans voting at this site attributed Pujols to be the primary reason for the split.

As compensation for the loss of Pujols, the Cardinals will receive a draft pick from the Angels, their frst-rounder, 19th overall, as well as a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Of course, that is small consolation for losing arguably the best player in the game.

On the other side of the coin, had Pujols remained, there were worries that without a significant payroll increase over time, the Cardinals may have had trouble fielding a competitive team. Near-term concerns include re-signing Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.

Rather than try to summarize Pujols’ many contributions here, I will simply assert that Pujols’ first ten years as a major leaguer may be the most dominant single decade registered by any player in the history of Major League Baseball. Sadly, Pujols will not be around to challenge Stan Musial as the greatest Cardinals player ever.

Where the next ten years will lead Pujols and the Cardinals remain to be seen, but one thing is clear. Their respective futures are no longer linked.

Footnote: Because I had finalized this top 20 before the signing of Carlos Beltran, that story is not included in the countdown. Since the move was in direct response to Pujols’ departure, it seems appropriate to acknowledge it here.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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16 Responses to “The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #2: Pujols leaves”

  1. Bw52 says:

    Brian-your first line says it all.

  2. blingboy says:

    Brian, you would have to agree that it was not a surprise to all.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      I was surprised, but only because I had gone to sleep regarding Albert’s free agency. I had mellowed out as to whether he left or stayed, because at some dollar figure, the Cards would have to drop out of a bidding war. If there was a rich team willing to pony up a ton of moola, Albert would have to leave. It turned out, there was such a team in the Angels. Arte shelled out more money for Albert than he did in buying the whole franchise.

      Albert’s departure was an important story, because it gives a great education about the monetary nature of the modern game. Huge stars will tend to flow to the deep pocketed teams. Its just labor economics, as unsurprising as 4 balls makes a walk or $254MM makes a free agent walk. I (and perhaps others) went to sleep about Albert leaving, maybe because the the Great Recession seemed to cool down the free agent market, plus owing to the Cards uncharacteristically re-signing Matt Holliday.

      The Mets and LA Dodgers seem fiscal messes. The White Sox are cutting costs. The Yankees and Red Sox had first basemen. The Cards best chance of retaining Pujols was if there was not a big market team willing to spend big. It turned out that the Angels have a big tv deal and could easily outbid DeWitt.

  3. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Deferred money was thought to render the contract a value of 180,000,000…… it was more than 30M….thats a loss of 30 million over the life of the contract………. which was very long…………

    ……….It was known by many that Pujols wanted the largest contract so that he might commit some of its value to his Christian enterprises…………… The Angels accommodated him……… and the 10 extra years to spread it around……….. from a baseball standpoint……….yea Cardinals……….. and feed the Lions…. no need to vilify that family……….

  4. blingboy says:

    “Live sports are DVR-proof. DVR-proof programming is worth a significant premium to advertisers. Massive dollars come into baseball because of it. Those dollars get funneled back to players.”

    This was in a Jeff Passan article on Yahoo.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      God will decide where I go????????????????????? That was AP’s whole negotiating posture……..he wanted lots……and long range so that his tax status and the deductions “charitable contributions” could be maximized…………thats what LA did…… was easy for BD to duck that one…….10/210…….had 5-7 M a year for 10yrs deferred………….tax free………do the math….. AP is 19 months older than advertised…………just a hunch………………wild guess……….

      The profiteering has to do with a number of things……….including controlling the “Apparent” value of the Dodger franchise……..and thus its sale value……….enhancing the ability to manipulate potential buyers to fill the needs of those that like to fulfill their needs……………….Thats the commissioner playing with his buddy Fox in the market place…………. that will go on for a while…… Moreno has the Diamond Club…. a special section where you can sit at table and eat while you’re watching the game……..nice view…..about 20 rows behind the plate…….. he’s no dope……..if you tried that in St. Louis…… would make the faithful feel inferior……….. Billy cuts the Prime Rib under the greens seats…………he knows his fans…………..

  5. blingboy says:

    Couple of things from the Jeff Gordon chat yesterday that I didn’t know or forgot if I did.

    1. “Mo has made it clear” that Descalso has the inside track for the starting 2B job.

    2. “The Cards” want Chambers to play everyday at Memphis.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Chambers is Jay’s understudy. He needs to be playing everyday, to be ready, in case Jay suffers an injury.
      But Shane Robinson might make the Cards roster, to rest Jay against southpaws.

  6. blingboy says:

    Gad! Jeff Benedict Arnold Luhnow has hired away the Cards’ Director of Amateur Draft Analysis, Sig Mejdal. The wonkiest of his former minions I take it. Are the cigar chompers going to run this draft after all? Who else is left? Should we panic?

  7. blingboy says:

    An Ivy League shortstop, that’s a wonk I can live with. Nice one Mo.

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