Bleh.

That’s right; I should totally write something here, shouldn’t I? Bleh.

I still can’t quite wrap my brain around the St. Louis Cardinals attempting to lowball Albert Pujols. He’s only the best player in the game; what’s another $5 million between friends? And, I mean, it’s not like it’s a surprise — the Cardinals have known this was coming for years. They’ve based virtually every move they’ve made over the last three-four years on the idea that Pujols will be a free agent after 2011 and they need to do everything in their power to get him to re-up — and they still blew it. $19 million a year? For Albert Pujols? Really?

Now, I can understand the idea that at some point, you’re paying Pujols too much for it to make sense, but… The Cardinals aren’t in poverty. They’ve got a substantial payroll. They could pay Pujols $30 million per annum and still have enough to pay for the entire roster of the Reds or Rays or Rockies, none of whom are down-and-out rebuilding cases. Signing Pujols to a mega-deal isn’t going to cripple their ability to compete unless they are incredibly dumb. (Granted, there’s evidence that this may be the case.) And if the idea is to compete, how much is letting — again — the best player in baseball, the best player baseball has seen in years, walk and replacing him with two draft picks going to help? I just don’t see any scenario in which antagonizing Pujols over what is (in terms of a baseball payroll) essentially chump change helps your franchise, short or long term. What if he goes to the Cubs? Is the fact that he’s going to be massively overpaid in 2018 really making that any less of a bitter pill to swallow?

I don’t feel this can be emphasized enough. Pujols isn’t just your garden-variety “good player” like Mark Teixeira or Carl Crawford. He is a player of historical stature. He is doing things that have never been done. Barring a catastrophe, he will go down in history as one of the ten best players ever to walk on the field. He is the Cardinals. Tony LaRussa’s scrappy white guy fetish isn’t what makes the Cardinals constant competitors — it’s Pujols.

One more thing — a lot of people seem to be having trouble with the idea that any professional athlete is worth what Pujols is asking for, but think about it this way: The salaries of professional athletes are determined by how profitable the leagues are. If Pujols is making crazy, unimaginable money, it’s because MLB as a whole is making even crazier, even more unimaginable money. If Pujols doesn’t get that $30 million, it’s not going to widows and orphans. It’s not raising teacher salaries or curing cancer or putting a man on Mars. The team owners are keeping it. I’d rather see the guy who’s actually performing make the big scratch rather than see the owners (who are billionaires, to a man) get even richer. When it comes to professional sports labor, there’s really no reason to side with the owners, ever. I would much rather see Albert Pujols thumb his nose at more money than I will ever see in my lifetime than listen to some ownership group cry poverty. Everyone in professional sports is greedy, but at least the players are honest about it. Ownership is both greedy and disingenuous, which is even worse.

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