Does Albert Pujols feel a responsibility — as his manager, Tony La Russa has charged — to establish a new bar for what the game’s best player is worth? Or do his current employers honestly believe they can keep their otherwordly offensive force in the fold by paying him less annually than Philadelphia lavishes upon the far more whiff-prone Ryan Howard? Above and beyond the posturing, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz credits Pujols (sort of) with a narrow victory in this week’s P.R. battle, with Albert’s arrival in St. Louis camp earlier today being given high (cosmetic marks) for the claim, “I want to be a Cardinal forever.”
Sure, I believe that Pujols would like to finish his career here. But at what cost? Does he want to be a Cardinal forever only if the team makes him the highest-paid player in MLB history? Or is there room for compromise? Just wondering: if Pujols really wants to be a Cardinal forever, then wouldn’t an eight-year deal (at the appropriate annual average value) accomplish that? How much money does he need and want to be a “Cardinal forever?”
And according to Joe Strauss, DeWitt apparently offered Pujols an equity stake in the ballclub. In other words, DeWitt was willing to make Pujols a partner — an ownership partner. Which is virtually unprecedented in major team sports in the U.S. Granted, we don’t know how much of an ownership stake DeWitt was willing to give to Pujols. I can’t imagine it would be a significant percentage. Still, if the team owner wants to hand you a piece of the franchise, at least it shows a willingness to be creative and make something happen, and make Pujols a Cardinal for life. Basically, we have to think it comes down to this for Pujols: a Cardinal forever, yes, but only if the price is right. A Cardinal for life, yes, but only if DeWitt pays him what he wants.
Perhaps in the future, we’ll see a day in which there is competition for Mr. Miklasz’ talents. If he has the leverage to seek the highest possible salary, I sincerely doubt any of his colleagues or readers will ask, “how much money does Bernie need?”