The Decision Of A Lifetime*greed included*

Ladies and gentlemen,

The 1st Annual Pujols destruction cleanup crew is here.   This isn’t easy to explain so let me take a big swing at this tree…

Albert Pujols made a choice.  Call it a financial obligation, a need to impose his will or a desire to play elsewhere.  Albert Pujols stepped out of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise for the first time since 1999 and is gone.   He took a 10 year, 260 million dollar deal to go to The Los Angeles Angels and officially ended his 11 year run in St. Louis.   After nearly 60 hours of hard to kill negotiations between the Marlins and Cardinals, the Angels flew in with a never look back deal that Pujols accepted.   This leaves me with a ton of feelings, emotions and thoughts, so in no particular order, here are a few bullet rounds on one of the biggest days in Cardinal history.

  • I am disappointed in Albert Pujols because he went back on his word.  His entire career was marked with a “Im not about the money” smoke screen” and today that was proved to be false.  Albert took the 250 million offer over the Cards offer of 220 million.   He took financial comfort over home comfort.  He made a decision that directly impacted his legacy here in St. Louis.  I can’t tell you another person who went from Saint to Sinner faster.  His statue will be full of shit.  People will set his house on fire.  HE will be  cursed for a few months.  His career here won’t go away but his legacy is on fire right now.   I am disappointed that I put my stock in Pujols’ words and got burned but that is the price for touching a hot stove and thinking there’s a soul inside.   This is a business ladies and gents and not a family play.  Pujols left for the dollar and while it sucks and makes me regret defending the guy, there are opportunities out there.
  • I am happy for Albert in a small way.   He got paid the top dollar and if anyone deserves the best deal, Albert does.  It just couldn’t happen here.  Not for 250 million.  Pujols had played here for 11 years and averaged 10 million a season to put up a Hall of Fame career.  He will be the highest paid first basemen in baseball.   Good for him.  Uncertain for the Cardinals.   Albert Pujols got a great deal in LA and its hard to get too worked up here because in the end a sport athlete went for the top dollar.   He didn’t die to play in LA.  He went for the highest dollar.  That is clear as day.
  • I am surprised that Albert Pujols left.  Every sane STL fan knew it would take one monstrous offer to pull Pujols way from St. Louis and the Angels provided the opportunity.  I never got too scared by the Marlins offer because I clearly didn’t think Albert would go to a city depending on real estate revenue and stadium profits in order to pay his salary.  Pujols just looked at the Marlins history of signing a load of free agents and dumping them later in order to say no there.  Once he got denied the no trade clause in Miami, he wasn’t going there.  The Angels worried me last night when they dropped a bomb on the Cards talks.   Around 4pm yesterday, things looked good for the Cards because they were all alone.   Until the Angels showed up.   The mystery team showed up.
  • This provides the Cards with 20-23 million of free money to explore the market with.   An uncertain yet creatively exciting future.   WE ARE NOT GOING TO GET PRINCE FIELDER.  If Dan Lozano got Pujols 10yr/250, Scott Boras will break the bank entirely for Fielder, who is 4 years younger and DH friendly as well.   John Mozelaik has informed the media he will not pursue Fielder.  That was before he bit the bullet of Pujols’ departure, but I doubt the Cards throw a 10 year offer at Prince.  Fielder is a great player but hamstrung by weight issues, a bad set of genes and a future looking at a DH spot.   Instead of blowing 22 million on Prince the Cards can get a shortstop, second basemen and a little extra ammo for right field.  Pujols was the target.   Now that he is gone, the Cards set their sights elsewhere.
  • Here are a few suggestions.  While Hanley Rameriz is intriguing and young, The Marlins don’t really want to deal him and will request a kings ransom in return.  If possible, the Cards need to play small ball here and fill the roster with low key moves.  Fielder, Rameriz, and Pujols are high end expensive talents.  Look around the bush here.  Bring back Rafael Furcal, a defensive expert with a little pop in his bat.  Let Tyler Greene shadow him at short.  Make a trade for former Cardinal Placido Polanco, a hit machine coming off hernia surgery who could play second base for the Cards.   Have Daniel Descalso back him up.   With Lance Berkman moving to first base and Allen Craig on the mend with a knee surgery, sign Ryan Ludwick to a one year incentive based contract.   The biggest scare here is replacing Albert’s production, and while placing Berkman in that spot is comical, the need to spend big in a revenge deal isn’t a smart play.
  • A quote from Boardwalk Empire comes to mind.   Arnold Rothstein tells Nucky Thompson to resist making a quick move when he is indicted on election fraud.   He tells him to stay quiet, go away for a while and resist the urge to go big.  He tells him to do this because there is no play so why press it.  However, when the time comes and the opportunity arises, Rothstein tells him to bet it all.  Every single dollar and penny.  That is what the Cardinals have to do now.  Pujols is gone.  You saved 250 million dollars for the future and can build a team out of Whitey Herzog products mixed with demolition bats.   Cardinal Nation loved Albert Pujols, me included, but the split is official so all this team and the fanbase can do is look forward.
  • Please don’t say you hate Pujols.   The guy made a business decision that didn’t go our way.   He left, went against his word but didn’t break a promise.  What he did was win 2 World Series rings, 3 MVP’s and produce the greatest 11 year career this city has ever seen.  He isn’t Lebron James.  Albert didn’t choke.  He made a choice.  Please don’t forget what he did here.  That would be trivial and a denial based move.   Remember the times you went nuts after a Pujols bomb.  The game winning hits.  The celebratory hits.  The 2 walkoff shots against the Cubs in June.   The 3 home runs against Texas.  The hundreds of big Pujols moments.   This deal has plenty of implications on this team.   The one thing that can’t happen is a hatred for Albert.  No need to burn his jersey or destroy his statue.  He brought this town magic for 11 seasons.   Don’t be a child about it.
  • John Mozelaik has nothing to be ashamed about.  He made a quality offer and didn’t get suckered into a crazy deal that strung his team out on one player.  Look, I supported the need to resign Albert and even approved of the 10 year offer but that doesn’t mean I think it’s entirely logical.  10 years is a long time to hope for a player to produce past the age of 30.   Mozelaik left The Winter Meetings without comment and I wonder why.  He made a good offer.  If it was 9 years at 22 million a season, I am cool with that.  It’s a good offer.  Mo and Bill DeWitt Jr. didn’t budge here and fall prey to Pujols and his agent.  Once again, Mozelaik was the smarter GM and declined the need to stretch his own limits.
  • This does place the team in an uncertain place because who does the team belong to?  Matt Holliday is the main guy now when it comes to image, stats and salary but he can’t replace Albert Pujols.  Lance Berkman isn’t a project anymore.  David Freese’s health comes into question.  The empty spots at shortstop and second base loom large.  Yadi Molina has a 7 million dollar option for 2012 and has nothing beyond.  Jon Jay commands center field now.  Without Albert Pujols, there is a missing presence and source of production on this team.   This will make for a creative offseason where this team has to find its way back home again.   This team changed a lot in the past 2 hours so I am anxious to see how it all plays out.
  • Peter Gammons of ESPN said something interesting on Monday at the beginning of the Winter Meetings.   His theory about the Cardinals mindset and reluctance to throw an offer at Albert right away came from the basis that an era could be ending.  When they won the World Series and Tony La Russa retired, this was the time to possibly start over without Pujols.   This will be a big moment for John Mozelaik.  Seeing how he deals with the first technical loss of his time as general manager.   To me, it’s not a loss but a gain in millions.  Mozelaik can’t think he lost here.  He made a smart move to resist the urge to dive into a black hole after Albert.  Now he has to learn to live with it.  Gammons had a point but hopefully  Mozelaik gets it.  This is his team now.  The Era is ending now.  La Russa is gone.  Pujols is gone.  Mo hired his own manager and has full rein.  He is looking at a roster full of players he put on this team.   For the first time in his career here, Mozelaik has his own team.
  • What was my instant reaction?  Like I was punched in the stomach.  Folks, I will be honest with you and tell you I wanted Pujols back and was willing to see the Cards and season ticket holders pay the price.  Losing him won’t be easy.  I wanted my kid to watch him play.  Tell him stories about Pujols’ greatness.   And yes my friends, Albert Pujols is full of greatness whether he is in a Cards uniform or an Angels uniform.  My reaction was sorrow, disappointment, relief and ultimately, a fair mixture of shame and gratitude towards Pujols.   He left but he didn’t personally smack the Cardinals.  He made a choice, so the hell with it.   The best thing about baseball is that with or without a franchise player, there will be baseball.  The Cardinals will take the field in April to defend their 11th World Series championship.  Albert Pujols joins the Angels gunning for their first in decades.
  • Let me refresh your memory on what he did here.  Pujols is a three-time National League Most Valuable Player and a 10-time All-Star. He’s a lifetime .328 hitter with a .420 on-base percentage, a .617 slugging percentage, 445 home runs and 1,329 RBIs. He has won two Gold Glove Awards and six Silver Sluggers, and even won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2008.   Let’s not forget what he accomplished here in his time.  Foolish ones forget his dent.
  • Think of it this way.  It was a business transaction.  In the end, more than just money.  Albert gets money, a new league, a quality team, new challenges and a wide open future.   He may of wanted it the entire time.  Who knows?  I am covering, discussing, breathing out and releasing here.   This is my way of dealing with it.  Writing.  Coming to every resolution.  This is therapeutic.  What I don’t like are the non Cards fans coming out of the woodwork to comment on or slam the true die hard Cards fans getting over the loss of a franchise great.   It’s easy for the slow half wits to throw a smack on this news because it suits their interests. If anyone gets to call Albert Pujols a lying greedy bastard, its me, the guy who sweats red bullets over every game, not a fantasy hack who checks the box score every morning.
  • How do I really feel about it?  Mad at the outcome, disappointed in Albert and relieved its over.   Its a business deal but Albert needs to save the GOD preaching and be quiet about his intentions and what he holds in the highest regard.   Save me the “I just want to win, that’s all, I don’t care about personal statistics” speech.  Albert Pujols indeed ran for the bigger paycheck.   There’s no getting around that.   I am disappointed in the outcome because Albert Pujols went against everything he had built himself up to be.   Today, we found out Albert Pujols was human, not a savior, and just another great baseball player trying to get the highest dollar.  When the Marlins bowed out last night, the Cards seemed to be in prime position to give Pujols a long long term deal.   Instead, the Angels came in with a bigger paycheck.   Unfortunate business transaction.
  • Save me the philanthropic excuse here.  Pujols does a ton of charity work in the area and builds hospitals in his native Dominican Republic during the offseason, but that doesn’t mean he had to take 250 million over 200 million.   I can’t and won’t feel sorry for Pujols here in the regard that he HAD to go after the highest dollar.  He had a choice and he went the hard route.  A place with the most pressure.  As Denis Leary once joked about millionaire athletes, what is Pujols feeding his kids?  Mercedes Benz vehicles each night.   The one game I won’t play is the sensitive game here.  Pujols got greedy and went big here.  He had an obligation to secure the biggest deal and finished the deal and left town.  He leaves charity work, a restaurant, couple homes, thousands of memories and a legacy that will be hard to beat.  Everybody has picked a side in this fight.  I am in the middle.  I feel both the flames.  Bittersweet and nasty.  That’s the news.   Newspapers wouldn’t want me right now.  I’d be too nasty, unpredictable, fiery, unplugged and straight up mean.

Is that it?  I don’t have much more to say here but let me try.  What else is there to say?

The Cardinals fought a good fight and lost.  In losing, they gained 200 million to spend over the next 10 years.   After the 2012 season, when Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse come off the books, there will be 20 million more to spend on a potential first basemen on the market if Lance Berkman fades according to schedule.  The Cards will spend 11 million on first base and not 22 million.   They will save cash at third base, center field, right field, and second base.   The rotation makes 44 million but its stocked and ready to go.  The bullpen is a Memphis product machine.  Mike Matheny gets a fresh start as manager with a new staff and no Albert Pujols to take his best swing with.   I feel hurt that I defended Pujols’ word for years personally and got burned today when he chased the Washington’s out to Southern California. 

You can’t tell me with a straight face that Albert wasn’t greed here.  I have no problem with him chasing the best offer. I have a problem with him going back on his popular word.   Integrity is key here.   Albert Pujols left that at home this morning.

The Summary of Events-The Meanings behind the Blaze

As Richard Justice writes on MLB.com, The Cardinals are still the team to beat in the NL even without Albert Pujols.   They were doing this before he got there and will continue to do it. The one upside here is that the Cards have 16 million-22 million dollars a year to play with the next 10 years.   They have money coming off the books after 2012 season completes.   They have Adam Wainwright back in the rotation.   The Brewers will most likely be without Prince Fielder and appear weaker.  The Reds and Pirates have been silent.  The Cubs are fading fast on options.  

-The Cards got away from tying themselves to Pujols for 10 seasons, when he would finish at 41 years of age.   Whether I like it or not, the numbers don’t show a good production in the 8th,9th and 10th years there.   I approved of the commitment the past year but I never truly agreed it was a solid business decision.  Yesterday, I was thinking to myself that I would have to load up my guns to defend Albert when he started declining.   In theory, the Cards would be better off strapping themselves to a bomb.   You can’t replace Albert Pujols in the lineup, but you really can’t replace him in 2019.    This could have(big guess) ended badly on our part.   Thats why John Mozelaik should feel good right now.  He gave it his best try, got denied but has funds to work with in building his own team. 

-I wouldn’t be against offering Prince Fielder a contract even though its not realistic.   He’s young, exciting, full of power and an energetic young player.   He would fit in nicely at Busch, where he won a home run derby in 2009.  This isn’t realistic or smart because his agent Scott Boras will ask for the house after Pujols got his money.   Those two are linked in their going rate for salary.   Mark Teixera got 22 million over 8.   Ryan Howard got 25 million over 5.   Albert Pujols got 25 over 10 years.  Prince Fielder is the youngest of the group and offers a DH probability to AL team.  I’d love for the Cards to give him an offer, but the team Prince will go to are the Rangers.   They have to respond to the Pujols move and they will get into the Fielder sweepstakes.

Instead, Mozelaik plays small ball, waits his turn, holds and pounces when the opportunity strikes.   This team can contend with any team in the National League.   The Phillies are weakened without Howard and Rollins.  The Marlins don’t have starting pitching past Josh Johnson.  The Braves couldn’t hold up in 2011.  The Cardinals will make a statement in 2012.  A year after they won the World Series without Wainwright, they will attempt to do it again without Albert Pujols.

It’s a new dawn, its a new day and while I am not feeling satisfied or good, I am interested and curious in the future of this team.  They aren’t dead yet.

To be continued when I find some whiskey.   Thanks for reading.   Here’s the Justice article for the people needing a bag to breathe into. 

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20111208&content_id=26128588&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

The End.

I won’t expect this to change your mind folks.  Just free mine for a little while.  It’s getting loud up there.  Hopefully this quiets it down.

Sincerely with no regrets,

Dan L. Buffa

Cardinals fans,we will be fine.   I think….

 

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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