The Legacy of Albert Pujols
This is probably a bit of a silly article to write seeing as by the time I finish, Pujols could have picked his team already and there’d be a media frenzy about the latest person to become a $200 millionaire in baseball. Still, I’m going to write it and you’re going to like it. That’s an order! I want to talk a little bit about what it means to be Albert Pujols both to him personally and to St. Louis because I predict that at least by the end of the month, he’ll be the new first baseman for the Miami Marlins. The Marlins are a story in themselves. It’s going to be weird to see Albert in the technicolor uniforms of the Marlins and from all I’ve seen, their new stadium is going to be a pitcher’s park, so it might depress his numbers a touch by moving there, but I’ll get into that if and when he actually signs there.
Before I do get into his legacy and whether or not I like the idea of him as a Marlin, I have to get into the question of what is so appealing about the Marlins. I understand they have a brand new stadium that they expect to provide gobs of revenue moving forward. I also see that they have a really nice base from which to work that already includes Hanley Ramirez (maybe not for long), Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and now Heath Bell and Jose Reyes. I see that the team looks solid on paper and has potential staying power for a few years. I still can’t get over the recent history of the Marlins organization and how they build a winner and then tear it down. Don’t get me wrong, as¬†a fan, I don’t think I could argue with two World Series titles in a six year span. But as a player, I’d be concerned about always being on the trading block. It’s been reported that the holdup with Pujols is that he’s looking for a no-trade clause and I wonder if that would be the same holdup with another team.
As a superstar player, it would definitely concern me that the Marlins were going to trade me after three good seasons or that they’d trade everybody else and I’d be stuck on a sinking ship all alone. I could be wrong, it has happened before, but I’m just not so sure the new stadium is going to provide the riches the organization expects over the long haul. They’re still playing in a city where people didn’t come out to see them when they were winning titles and don’t tell me it was because of the stadium. If the Royals were winning titles and playing in an elevator, I’d find a way to go and I know most of Kansas City would agree with me. I just get the feeling that in three or four years, the newness will have worn off and unless they have two or three titles in that time, the fans will probably stop coming out just like they already do. Stadiums provide a revenue boom for a couple of years before tailing off. It’ll be interesting to see what all this spending looks like then.
Back to the legacy of Pujols which is the point of this article. Beyond any of the logistics of him signing with the Marlins, I have to wonder why he would want to leave St. Louis for what I assume is pretty comparable money. The reported offer by the Marlins is for ten years and $220 million. It could be a bit more or a bit less than that, but we’re just splitting hairs here. The Cardinals reportedly offered nine years for $195 million before the season and that was said to be their offer to start the offseason. Since the Marlins offer came out, the Cardinals have reportedly upped their offer which means they can’t be too far away. The difference is that there is no state income tax in Florida, but the Marlins contract offer is also heavily deferred which might negate the lack of state income tax as inflation makes each dollar worth less over time. So what would be the motivation for an icon of a city to leave that city after ten years and two world titles?
I can think of a couple reasons for Albert Pujols. The first thing that came to mind is a new challenge. He’s won in St. Louis. He’s done pretty much everything imaginable for a player as a St. Louis Cardinal and maybe he wants to see if he can do it in a different uniform. While he went to high school in the Kansas City area which is relatively close to St. Louis, it isn’t like that is home to him. He’s from the Dominican Republic and didn’t move to Kansas City until he was a teenager (I believe…and no that isn’t a crack at the fact that he might be more like 36, I’m just not sure exactly when he moved). So aside from the 11 seasons he spent in St. Louis, that’s not home. I should say that he is huge in the community and it is a home to him right now in spite of the fact that he maintains residence in Leawood.
The second reason he might be interested in the Marlins is what made their managerial move so interesting. A lot of players from the Dominican Republic and Latin America have mentioned that they’d love to play someday for Ozzie Guillen who is now the manager of the Marlins. I’m not saying that’s the reason, but it does seem like a possibility. The Marlins are trying to brand themselves as Latin America’s team, which is hopefully going to help them maintain revenue and attendance. While I don’t think it’s going to work especially well, I do appreciate the effor they are trying to make. Hiring Ozzie Guillen as manager was a great first move. Signing Jose Reyes was fantastic to go along with Hanley Ramirez. Signing Albert Pujols would be about as good as it gets for a franchise looking to brand themselves. And ultimately, it’s probably going to be beneficial to the Cardinals. They’d have a lot of money tied up in a player who will not be very good at the end of his contract.
Still, I just don’t get it for Pujols. Why would he want to leave a city where he’s a hero. If he hits .260/.350/.430 one season, they’re going to get mad or hate him. If he signs with the Marlins and does that, he’ll be a complete goat, a guy who played for the big contract and then shut it down. He can be the mayor of St. Louis. He’d be nothing in South Florida other than a great player. The contract offers are for ten years each. No matter how old Pujols is, he’s going to be in his decline phase at some point during the deal. Wouldn’t it be much better for him to decline gracefully in a city that loves him so dearly that they wanted him to have the Spanish version of Stan Musial’s nickname? I think you all know how much I dislike the Cardinals, but if Pujols leaves, then I think he’s making the worst mistake of his life. He’s a St. Louis Cardinal through and through and as much as I’d love it if he was a Kansas City Royal, he’s just not and he shouldn’t be anything about a Cardinal.
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