The Albert Pujols deadline proved to be every bit as climactic as a Jim Jarmusch film, assuming you, like me, inevitably end up a) falling asleep or b) turning his movies off before they’ve finished. Buster Olney didn’t exactly pour accelerator on the fires of suspense when he tweeted a couple hours before noon that talks were not only finished, but that the two sides hadn’t discussed anything in the last 100 hours or so.
Craig Calcaterra’s take on the situation over at Hardball Talk is that setting a deadline was a miscue from the Pujols camp.
And it wouldn’t have been that big a deal if Pujols hadn’t gone and set a deadline. Not that it necessarily matters to him or should — the guy should do what he wants to — but the frenzy that has been built up among the Cardinals fans and the media covering this deadline thing is a pretty artificial creation.
Surprisingly, Calcaterra agrees with his arch nemesis Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated who tweets that the optics of the deadline make Pujols out to be the bad guy.
I disagree. I could be swayed by an argument suggesting that the deadline was meaningless because it’s difficult to believe that Pujols wouldn’t accept a favourable contract offer later today, tomorrow, at the All-Star break or on September 1st. However, setting a deadline still makes sense for the Pujols camp, whether it was merely a negotiating ploy or if it was done to concentrate the hysterical frenzy into the few weeks surrounding the beginning of Spring Training.
By forcing the Cardinals hand this offseason Pujols and his agent Dan Lozano may have failed in getting the contract that they were after, but they walk away with a better understanding of what his current team is able to offer, as well as whatever is gained from a better understanding of public perception.
If Pujols legitimately didn’t want negotiations to be a distraction to himself and his teammates, he also succeeds here. Yes, the next couple weeks are going to bring about a lot of bored beat writers looking for a story, but how long are they going to keep their pursuit up? Two weeks of Pujols saying no comment regarding questions about his future with the Cardinals during Spring Training is far less distracting than constant negotiation updates throughout the season.
As for Pujols’ reputation, despite Heyman’s claim, it hasn’t been tarnished at all. Cards fans and most baseball people understand his status as the best player in the game and believe he should be paid that way. The fact that the Cardinals offer was rumoured to be around the tenth highest in the history of the game only serves to better justify Pujols’ stance. Frankly, he’s better than that.
Ken Rosenthal doesn’t know the exact terms of the St. Louis offer but believes it to be in the eight years for $168 million or nine years for $189 million if the team didn’t go to ten years, as was previously rumoured. Currently, Carl Crawford owns the tenth largest baseball contract ever signed when he agreed with the Boston Red Sox on a deal that pays him $142 million over seven years. The tenth highest annual salary in baseball belongs to Alfonso Soriano who earns $19 million for the next three years (including a signing bonus that was spread out over the terms of his deal).