Why I’m Not Mad at Pujols

by on December 17, 2011 · 8 comments

This is a story without a villain:

  • I’m not angry at Albert Pujols. How can I be after all this? He’s provided us with too many impossible moments to chronicle and ferried us to a pair of championships. The past is unchanged, as some philosopher said at some point, probably in the original French.
  • All sides acted rationally. The Angels’ offer was demonstrably better than ours on a number of levels. Pujols sensibly accepted it. I normally don’t resort to pat certainties, but in this case I will: it’s just business. The Cardinals may not have the revenue base to withstand a contract that could turn into a boondoggle halfway through the commitment. The Angels do have that luxury, and signing Pujols turns them into a certifiable contender in the here and now.
  • Many among us are angry at a perceived betrayal. Why? Pujols fulfilled his obligations to the team, and you — and I — were richly rewarded for the tickets and media packages we purchased and “emotional equity” we invested. Pujols insisted the endgame wouldn’t be about the money, and indeed it may not have been. The Marlins reportedly made the highest offer, which he obviously didn’t accept. As well, the Cardinals’ approach to negotiations may have left Pujols spoiling for respect.
  • Yes, he has an ego. Even the most polished, seemingly humble ballplayer has a powerful sense of self-investment. Regardless of appearances, one does not become one of the best in the world at anything without an ego. It’s in the factory settings. Maybe this was about respect, which has a little something to do with money and a lot to do with proper deference and regard.
  • Like it or not, bemoan it or not, Pujols isn’t a schoolteacher/cop/firefighter/service-industry worker/blogger/whatever. Yes, the sums bandied about sound indecent to us, and it’s hard to fathom being insulted by hundreds of millions of dollars. But we all measure ourselves against our peers. What you and I make or would be willing to play for isn’t part of the calculus. Unless you’ve been a part of negotiations of a similar scale and then chose the lesser offer, then righteous claims as to what you would’ve done mean little.
  • We’ll never, ever know the full complement of motivations that led him to do this. Pujols might want a new challenge after winning it all and seeing the only manager he’s ever known retire. He might believe the Angels provide him with a better opportunity to win than the Cardinals do (although there’s a self-fulfilling element to that prophecy). It could be layers of reasons. The weather. The chance to ease into the DH role in five years or so. Maybe his favorite cousin lives in Mission Viejo. He enjoys fresh, roadside citrus. Whatever. Even the most enterprising reporters aren’t privy to his thoughts.
  • Stan Musial, the beloved godhead to whom Pujols is so chronically compared, might have done the same thing. Yes: Stan the Man, of his own devising, might have left the Cardinals. The shame is that he never had the chance. I yield to no one in my admiration of Musial, but, as with all players of the pre-Messersmith/McNally era, the lack of basic freedoms is often mistaken for loyalty.
  • Most of all, to read into L’Affaire Pujols the basest of impulses is to pretend you know things you simply don’t. You’ll never know his innermost workings, the exact tenor of negotiations, or his true reasons for making this choice. Never. It makes for a tidy narrative to color him as a bad actor in all of this, but one could just as easily say the organization, after enjoying a decade-plus of Pujols for pennies on the dollar, is the disloyal party, the one who’s most transparently “about the money.” I choose not to make either case, mostly because a negotiation isn’t a morality tale.

And with that, I am sufficiently purged. I’m also ready for actual baseball.

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Posted in: Former Cardinals

{ 8 comments }

athooks December 17, 2011

Pujols has every right to do what he wants.

BUT…

Don’t tell me it wasn’t about the money, when it was about the money. It’s offensive to me, and perhaps others, that he continues to try and spin this as something other than a money grab.

We had some great times, Bert. We will miss you. But for F’s sake level with us. Look us in the eye. Tell us it was about the money. And we’ll say – can’t argue with that.

ATH

Dale Sams December 17, 2011

What is he supposed to do, buy a full-page ad saying ‘It was about the money!’.

Grow up. The reason he doesn’t hold a press conference blubbering fake apologies, is because he expects people to not be naive. He doesn’t owe anyone anything, that includes ‘an explanation.’

MattAtBat December 17, 2011

The right PR move would be to take out a full-page ad (probably not italics) and say:

“Thanks to the fans…great memories…thanks to the organization for giving me a shot in the majors… new path in life… St. Louis will always be special to me.”

And then give interviews where you say, “the other team’s offer was better… if St Louis came closer to matching, I’d have accepted but I understand the finances involved… more money my family can put in our charity…”

Pujols’ PR mistake was that, in interviews, he tried to frame the issue in terms of respect, which he probably genuinely believes, but most fans would read as complaining “you didn’t love me enough.”

Marilyn Green (@Marilyncolor) December 17, 2011

I dont’ take issue with anything that you said except one thing. You have the facts about the Marlins offer wrong. Marlins president Samson stated publicly in several different venues that the 10/275 offer reported in the media was false. Samson said the the Marlins offered 10 yrs and a “hair” over 200 million, suggesting that the Marlins offer was even lower than the Cardinals offer of 10/210. I don’t want to peg Albert as a villain, but l don’t want to perpetuate a falsehood created to make Albert look better either,

Dayn Perry December 17, 2011

Yep, I’ve read Samson’s comments, and we’ll never know which version is correct. Samson obviously has incentive to lie (what does it say about an organization if a player turns down a $275MM offer?), or the initial report could be inaccurate. Who knows?

Marilyn Green (@Marilyncolor) December 17, 2011

I see no incentive for Samson to lie about such a thing (your “incentive” makes no sense to me because Samson is already embroiled in a financial scandal over the new stadium and such a lie would not help him in the least) but I see plenty of incentive for Albert’s agent to lie. The initial report was made by Bob Nightengale, well known as a close friend of Lozano. If If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

Dayn Perry December 17, 2011

I see plenty of incentive for Samson to lie. First, having a player reject such an offer is bad for the brand. Second, there’s a great deal of internal pressure within MLB *not* to make such lavish offers. I’m not saying he lied, but he has reason to. It could be that Lozano is the source of the story. We don’t know the actual offer, but the idea that Samson has credibility while Nightengale doesn’t is silly.

Marilyn Green (@Marilyncolor) December 17, 2011

Believe what you want then. But Lozano doesn’t have the government subpoenaing his financial records. The Marlins do. They are already under suspicion for understating their finances to get the new stadium built. To make an outrageously high offer like that in those circumstances and then compound the problem by lying about it in public is like waving a red flag in front of the government bull. No way Samson is that stupid. Lozano, on the other hand, can get away with lying because he can use his friend Nightengale, who has a certain amount of legal immunity in what he prints.

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