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What’s the worst that could happen?

The Cardinals are cursed. This is how.

Baseball Owners Photo By: Buckley, Arthur/NY Daily News via Getty Images

Midnight, March 27, 2022

The eyes of a sleeping Bill DeWitt II darted open in confusion and surprise. He lay painfully still, training his ears on an unfamiliar sound just perceptible beyond the range of his hearing. It was coming from the hallway. It sounded like... dress shoes clicking across the floor?

DeWitt slipped on his nightcap and into his slippers and began to slowly approach the door to his room. His hand hovered over the doorknob. He waited just a beat.

He waited too long.

A gust of cold air blew open the door, knocking him back to floor, his nightcap flying into one of the dark corners of the room behind him. He rubbed his eyes, expecting to see something in front him, something that would provide an explanation for what just happened. But there was nothing. The air was still... unnervingly still. All he could see in front of him was an open door.

DeWitt quickly scrambled up from the floor and pushed the door closed, turning the lock for good measure before darting into bed and pulling up the covers. His heart was racing, so he took a few deep breaths before giving the room another glance. Still empty. Slowly, he closed his eyes, hoping to drift back to sleep.

“Wake up, Bill.”

He screamed, his eyes shooting back open to see the form of a man sitting on the end of his bed. It was a shorter man, with thinning, slicked-back hair and half-smile that almost looked kind and approachable, wearing a crisp, gray suit with a tie and eyeglasses. He was glancing down in thought at a piece of paper he held in his hands.

“I see Albert Pujols is still a free agent,” the man said, his tone casual and unobtrusive, “What are you thinkin’ there?”

DeWitt said nothing. He was struck dumb with fear and now confusion.

“I understand that you all might want to keep that under wraps. I won’t tell though,” he said with a wink.

Still silence.

“I like the move. I think he is going to have a fine season. But he could have an incredible one...”

“Who are you?” DeWitt finally broke his silence, the confusion eventually growing stronger than the fear, “What are you doing here? What do you want from me?”

The man looked a little wounded. “I thought maybe you would recognize me, being a fellow owner and all — I mean, we’ve met before, for goodness’ sake. If you aren’t a Busch, it’s like no one thinks to remember you,” he muttered softly, shaking his head. “Let’s just say, I am a guy that knows that sacrifices have to made sometimes when it comes to owning this team. At the end of the day, I did what I had to do to keep the Cardinals in St. Louis, though. I won’t lie, the little gambit about moving the stadium to Madison, Illinois got me a bit hot under the collar considering I went to prison trying to keep the team in this city, but I understand. Really. I do.” His eyes had a natural softness to them, but they hardened just a tiniest fraction as he said this.

“Now, Bill,” he began again, “I was sent here to offer you a deal. I have it written up right here,” he wiggled the paper around a little. “Your offer is, should you sign Albert Pujols for the final season of his career, the St. Louis Cardinals will be guaranteed a 90-win season, an MVP caliber season from both Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt — the winner can be determined later, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright will break the battery record, and Albert Pujols will reach 700 home runs.”

DeWitt thought on this for a second before responding “Can I get a Silver Slugger from Yadier Molina?”

“Absolutely not — in fact, the only way the math of this deal works within the timeline is if he spends a good portion of the season in Puerto Rico,”

“Alright, I had to try. So, all I have to do is sign Albert Pujols and this will just happen?”

“As a lawyer I feel I must inform you that there are some other parts in the fine print here. The universe demands balance, of course. It says in 2023 Adam Wainwright will miss the first month of the season — that seems manageable, Nolan Arenado will start the season in a slump — the offense is pretty good around him you should be able to weather that, and the starting pitching as it stands now will be in around the bottom third of the league in ERA, FIP, and home runs per flyball, and will have around the highest... baah-bip in the league, whatever that is... But that won’t be so bad, just sign a starter or bring up Liberatore or something. Bill, are you listening?”

“Of course I was. 90-win season, MVPs, sign Albert Pujols. I’ll take it — where do I sign?”

“But did you hear what I said about the starting—”

“Sure, sure, let’s just do this. What’s the worst that could happen?” Bill DeWitt Jr. said as he took the paper and pen from the man and signed it.

12:37 pm May 4, 2023