Oh my god Oh my god Oh
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Albert Pujols said Sunday that the St. Louis Cardinals' commitment to winning will dictate if he re-signs with the club when his contract expires in two years.
"It's not about the money all the time," the first baseman said. "It's about being in a place to win and being in a position to win.
"If the Cardinals are willing to do that and put a team (on the field) every year like they have, I'm going to try to work everything out to stay in this town. But if they're not bringing championship caliber play every year, then it's time for me to go somewhere else that I can win."
The mood cycle I experience after every "Albert Pujols is not signed to a perpetually renewing contract" piece goes a little like this: I hyperventilate; expecting people around me to hyperventilate, I hyperventilate some more; I think about it; finally, I accept it, my heart a little weaker than it was before.
Now that I can think somewhat rationally about it: this is one of those situations that shows how much trouble, PR-wise, it is to be an incredibly rich, incredibly talented pro athlete. You can say it's a business, and people will get you for not caring about winning; you can say you care about winning, and people will get you for being, somehow, disloyal. Fans perform the same calculus players do all the time—we see if the team is doing something to reward our fandom and we revise it accordingly. I wouldn't spend hours a week watching and writing about the 2003 Pirates, and I doubt Albert Pujols would enjoy spending hours a day training and playing for them. Keeping it within that framework—not reading between the lines, not casting Pujols in the role of MVP-cum-media-manipulator, laying the groundwork for his eventual departure—it should be reassuring: the Cardinals want to win, Pujols wants to win, two great tastes continue to taste great together.
The valid concern is that Albert—fresh off his inexplicable sign-Manny campaign—might not know what a front office that's willing to put the Cardinals in a position to win looks like. But if the front office doesn't have anything to show for Pujols, Rasmus, Wallace two years down the road, with Carpenter's contract on the way out, they're doing it wrong, anyway. And then I breathe out.
On a smaller, more immediate scale, there's Ryan Ludwick's scheduled arbitration hearing today. Those among us who are neither DeWitts nor hawk-eyed roster matrix watchers—new one tomorrow, provided the Ludwick situation is ironed out—haven't got a lot to worry about here, seeing as he's under team control for the foreseeable future, but the stakes are currently $4.5 million vs. $2.8 million. That would make it less than newsworthy—and I'm speaking here in the sans-context sense, since, with Octo-Mom (distressingly enough, not a superhero) currently taking up permanent residence on cable news, everything is newsworthy—but I guess February is the cable news network of baseball months, anyway. (Octo-Mom, I hear, is in the best shape of her career.)
"Worst-case scenario," said Ludwick, "is that if you had told me I was going to make $2.8 million four years ago, I would have said, ‘Awesome."'
I almost always come away from a Ludwick quote liking him a little more, as a player, and I don't think his distance from free agency is the only reason. He's not a particularly witty or erudite interview, he just tends to say the kind of things we think we would say, if we were no-nonsense baseball players. That's the sort of luxury you're afforded when thousands of Cardinals fans don't hang themselves on your every word.