There is a chance that Albert Pujols will decline the arbitration offer the Cardinals just made, and I believe that the Cardinals—and even those of us playing the home version—should keep that possibility in mind as we plot the team's offseason. I am just that kind of worst-case-scenario guy.
So, assuming that Albert Pujols taking a one-year contract determined by an outside arbitrator doesn't do the trick, the Cardinals find themselves forced to continue their salary negotiations with a guy who may or may not have been NSFWing when he was supposed to be SFWing (right next to "Man Posts Evidence of Bride's Lost Virginity to Facebook" on Deadspin's headlines list, which, maybe the guy's a football fan I guess.)
Since Albert Pujols is sticking with his agent we can take "Pujols's side experiences total negotiations meltdown, delaying our satisfaction and/or heartbreak another month or two" off the possible-first-base-outcomes list.
That leaves us with a few possible outcomes, starting with the one I'm least fond of: Albert Pujols leaves and Busch Stadium is torn down brick by brick and sold on the black memorabilia market. The Cardinals play on the Ballpark Village softball field until the Cardinals successfully construct a retro-retro ballpark that's designed to evoke the feeling of Busch Stadium III in these more cynical times. A home run hit in the puddle that forms in the hole in the ground where Busch III used to be when it rains too much is called a DeWitt Dinger.
The Cardinals are more or less stuck in that situation, although I like a related option: Albert Pujols leaves and Busch Stadium is torn down brick by brick and sold on the black memorabilia market, whereupon the Cardinals play in the Edward Jones Dome for a year or two. I don't think it's possible, but I'd be hoping for a Los Angeles Coliseum kind of set-up in this case, where there's a 251-foot wall somewhere and Skip Schumaker hits 51 home runs.
Assuming Busch Stadium stays in place after the National Guard is called in, we have the third worst option, Albert Pujols leaves. The Cardinals get two draft picks, Lance Berkman moves to first base, and Allen Craig does it for Torty on a semi-permanent basis, although I'm not sure the Cardinals can get by too long without spending their perceived DeWallet dividend.
There's a little extra value to be squeezed out in that positional move—Berkman was a half a win or a win worse than average as a left fielder, whereas Allen Craig probably isn't. But Berkman and Craig are also coming off unsustainably outstanding offensive seasons, which could lead to a brick-by-brick situation round midseason.
The Cardinals are stuck in a strange position if they fail to sign Pujols here—Berkman and Craig is a good solution, almost ideal, but it's unlikely to be as good as it looked last year and it lacks the flash of, say, replacing your highly paid face of the franchise with some other highly paid face of the franchise.
Which could lead to Albert Pujols signs a terrifyingly large contract that hinders the Cardinals in the next four to ten years. I'm worried about this, but not as worried about this as watching Albert Pujols do the same thing somewhere else in the next four to ten years.
I admit it: I am not Murray Chass's sabermetric straw man. I like it when superstars stay with their original team for their entire productive career, and I'm willing to watch somebody else pay a premium for it. Meanwhile Albert Pujols is coming off a worrying season, and worth more to the Cardinals as the beloved successor to Stan Musial than he could be to other teams, as the disappointing first baseman who limps all the time.
I'm willing to see this lead to the Cardinals overpaying for someone who's played his best years already. If there's some way this can be worked out in such a way that the Cardinals don't overpay so much, all the better.
None of these situations is ideal, and I guess that's why all of these situations will lead to me, eventually, watching baseball in April.