The St. Louis Cardinals successfully asked Albert Pujols to extend contract negotiations from Tuesday’s noon deadline to Wednesday because Stan Musial is scheduled to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House tomorrow.

According to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak:

Tomorrow is a very big day for Stan Musial. It wouldn’t make any sense to have a large distraction on that special day given the amount of respect we have for that man. It only made sense to make sure that we didn’t have a whole lot of things going on given the events tomorrow in Washington.

By all reports, the two sides are so far apart that extending the window for an agreement seems hopeful to say the least.

Pujols originally set tomorrow’s deadline so that contract talks wouldn’t become a distraction for himself and the team once the season started, but that might be a better example of wishful thinking than the Cardinals hoping that the two sides will reach a consensus because of an extra day to discuss terms.

According to Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa:

This is a spectacular distraction potentially. We won’t allow it to be.

Even more wishful thinking.

As Bob Nightengale points out in USA Today:

Even if Pujols continues his silence about his future, it won’t squelch the firestorm that has already been created in St. Louis. Newspaper columnists are picking sides. The phrase “#Albertageddon” is gaining popularity on Twitter. And a Web site — albertcountdown.com — is counting down to when he arrives at spring training and terminates negotiations.

And I thought “#Albertageddon” was referring to the state of the Edmonton Oilers franchise.

The absurdity of imagining that no negotiations will mean no distraction actually causes me to question whether or not the whole idea of a deadline isn’t just a negotiation ploy, and as meaningless as St. Louis Today columnist Bernie Miklasz suggests:

If the deadline passes without a contract in No. 5′s hands, there’s no legitimate reason to assume it means the likely ending of the Pujols-Cardinals union. It doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. It doesn’t mean Pujols is going to bolt as a free agent after the season and jump to the enemy Chicago Cubs.

This spring-training deadline is merely the first checkpoint.

That’s all. Nothing more.

Seriously now: If Mozeliak forwards a meaningful contract proposal to Lozano four weeks from now, or four months from now, do you really believe Lozano and client will refuse to look it over? Of course not. Unless they’re complete frauds, they’ll consider any or all offers from the Cardinals.

I might be inclined to agree with Miklasz if he didn’t sound so naive when he justifies his questioning:

I say that based on Pujols’ own words through the years. How many times has Pujols said he wants to be a Cardinal for life? How many times has Albert evoked the name of Stan Musial as his ideal of what a player, and a career, should be? Well, shouldn’t Albert’s previous statements account for something?

Putting stock in anything a professional athlete says to the media is a dangerous game.  While Pujols may very well want to stay in St. Louis, he’d be foolish to do so at anything less than his price.  And his price should make him the highest paid baseball player in the game today.  How else do you value the greatest baseball player in the game today?

What’s amusing here is that Miklasz is able to see so clearly through the optics of Pujols’ self imposed deadline but is simultaneously blinded by Pujols’ good intentioned comments in the past.