One more about Albert Pujols not playing baseball

JUPITER FL - FEBRUARY 16: A vehicle belonging to Albert Pujols is unloaded during spring training at Roger Dean Stadium on February 16 2011 in Jupiter Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Dan Lozano on Albert Pujols

While both parties were hopeful that an agreement could be reached, a difference of opinion in determining Albert's value simply could not be resolved. Albert's production over the last 10 years is nothing short of historic. He is not only the best player in baseball, and on his way to having a Hall of Fame career, but an iconic figure in sports. The expiration of today's deadline does not eliminate the possibility of Albert returning to the Cardinals in 2012, but simply delays negotiations until the conclusion of the Cardinals' season.

We disagreed about how much Albert Pujols was worth. He's a great player and people like him in St. Louis. The Cardinals will get a chance to bid on him again after the season. 

Dan Lozano is doing his job, but his job, unfortunately, is to make a spectacle of these negotiations. He's doing it well—nobody knew his name a month ago but SB Nation St. Louis got something like 60 Google hits for his name today, the first 60 his way that we've ever gotten. Not Dan Lozano Pujols; not Pujols Lozano; just Dan Lozanonewly single agent with one enormous, name-making client. 

So far he's done pretty well; as with Billy Beane and the Big Three it's easy to wonder how much of this work has already been done for him, but however it happened he managed to provoke press conferences and live ESPN analysis from contract negotiations for a player who's still not a free agent. 

If Lozano was really snickering about the Cardinals' chances with other teams he's a few clients from having Scott Boras's negative reputation as well as his positive one, but as much as I hate his job I have to admit he's doing it pretty well. If Pujols didn't like the job Lozano was doing—that is, if he wasn't prepared for this—he had a perfectly good chance to exit when Lozano did. 

Bill DeWitt on Albert Pujols: 

While we are disappointed that we did not reach an agreement, we remain hopeful that Albert will finish his career in St. Louis. Albert has been playing baseball at the highest level for the Cardinals these past ten years, providing us with countless great memories. We look forward to many more in 2011 and hopefully beyond. We are looking forward to this upcoming season and feel great about the team we have assembled. We respect Albert's decision to focus entirely on preparing for the 2011 season. We will honor his wishes and not discuss this matter until the completion of the season.

We disagreed about how much Albert Pujols was worth. He's a great player and people like him in St. Louis. We won't talk to him again until after the 2011 season, because that's what he wants, but make sure you catch that he's the one who wants that.

Our unnamed sources are taking swings at each other with the lights off—one suggests the Cardinals offered a salary which would place Pujols outside the top five in AAV, which is clearly the Cardinals' fault. Others suggest the kind of deals we'd imagined before somebody, somewhere rounded up from Alex Rodriguez. That one would be nobody's fault, except Alex Rodriguez's. 

This is going to sound like concern trolling, but the numbers involved in baseball ownership sound so fake to me that when it comes to once-in-a-generation decisions, like sign-Albert-Pujols-and-keep-him-around-forever or guys-I-freed-Allen-Craig-like-you-asked, I wonder why a decision has to be made at all. You're worried about the team staying competitive? What's another $10 million a year for 10 years? 

I think the Cardinals are in the roughest position here, for that reason. It's harder to say what's another $10 million a year to Albert Pujols, whose pay won't be fluctuating from year to year, but the Cardinals seem every year to take on a few spare salaries for the likes of Jeff Weaver and Mike Maroth; the payroll seems flexible, so why not stretch it out?

I realize intellectually that it doesn't work like that, but it'll be hard to think that when the Cardinals find themselves in need of a third baseman and the trade deadline and take on half of Mike Young's salary, or just set $5 million on fire to keep David Freese's body temperature from falling after that vampire bites him. So maybe Albert Pujols did the Cardinals a favor by refusing to negotiate during the season. It gives the Cardinals something against which they can dig in—we wanted to talk; we made an offer; he wants free agency. 

Albert Pujols on the St. Louis Cardinals:

I also would like to take this opportunity to reassure the Cardinal Nation, that my effort both on and off the field will never change. I am devoted to giving 100 percent on the field, every single day, just as I have done the last 10 years. We're all working together toward a common goal and that is to win a World Championship for the City of St. Louis. The last thing anyone in this clubhouse needs to worry about, is what's going to happen to me after the season. Let's focus on winning in 2011 and prepare each day to accomplish our goals as a team.

I'm really good at baseball, and you guys have rooted for me for 10 years. Don't think about the negotiating, I'm still playing for the Cardinals in 2011. 

Taking Albert Pujols at his word as someone who didn't want to be a distraction to himself, the fans, the clubhouse, this whole deadline idea was a colossal disaster. The Mark McGwire treatment would have been better—say whatever you're thinking, presumably that you'd like to test free agency, deal with it for three days, and then ruin Brendan Ryan's swing and make VEB cry. 

And if the Cardinals really offered the high end of the unnamed-sourced (unsourced, for short) contracts we saw yesterday and Pujols and Lozano declined, Pujols should not have said any of the things playing over the obligatory Sarah Mclachlan song in this video. (I wonder whether we demand supplication like this, as The Best Fans in Baseball, or if players just feel compelled to give it, but as good as St. Louis is and as good as the Cardinals are there are other places where he'd be comfortable and revered as a demi-god-of-baseball.)

But if somebody has to compromise he's right to wonder why it has to be him. And taking him at his word, he probably doesn't want to be a distraction, he probably would like to stay in St. Louis, and he probably is—this doesn't work when you say it out loud in your best Albert Pujols impression, so I'm not sure he wrote it—"working... toward a common goal and that is to win a World Championship for the City of St. Louis." 

Pujols hasn't bent over backward for the Cardinals, or forward, or sideways, but he hasn't done anything to earn any centaur paintings, either. He'll be Albert Pujols again in 2011 and hopefully the Cardinals are prepared to outbid other teams for the best player in baseball. Hopefully Dan Lozano's job and the Cardinals' and Albert Pujols's all come together a bit better.

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