Pujols setting up for offseason free agent frenzy

Elizabeth Evans / Washburn Review

 

As the 2011 MLB season closes, St. Louis Cardinals fans await the destiny of their esteemed first baseman, Albert Pujols.

For nearly a year fans, players and owners have acknowledged the imminent end of Pujols’ seven-year contract. At the end of the 2011 season, Pujols will be a free agent for the first time in his career.

Pujols signed with the Cardinals in 1999 and debuted in 2001. Since then, he has hit 455 home runs and has 1,329 RBIs. Along with his strengths as a batter, Pujols won a Gold Glove for in 2006 and set a record for assists by a first baseman in 2009. He also won the Rookie of the Year award in 2001 and the National League MVP award in 2005, 2008 and 2009. Finally, in 2006, he led his team to the World Series championship, where the Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers four games to one. 

Last winter, the Cardinals proposed a nine-year contract for $195 million, but Pujols would not settle for less than a 10-year contract for $230 million. This annual salary of $23 million is the same as the salary of Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, and Pujols expected this as a bare minimum. However, the Cardinals were not willing to offer this amount, so they agreed to stop negotiations until the end of the 2011 season. As a result, Pujols never renewed his contract with the Cardinals, and will soon be a free agent.

Pujols is arguably the best baseball player of the 2000-2010 decade. While some may say that nobody needs the amount of money he requested for a new 10-year contract, others argue that the best player of the MLB should be paid like the best player of the MLB.

The “boos” resonating from the opposing team as Pujols steps up to the plate are hardly necessary. It may be different if Pujols would sign with the first team to pay him the highest amount, but he has expressed his reluctance to leave the Cardinals on many occasions. Moreover, Pujols’ halting of negotiations was less about his request for a larger salary, and more about his dedication to his team and the game.

“Hopefully, people understood why I did that,” Pujols said in a “USA Today” article written by Bob Nightengale. “I thought it was the proper thing to do. It’s about our ballclub, not about me. I didn’t want to bring all of that attention to myself.”

Furthermore, his reluctance to accept a contract less than his request has little to do with greed, especially considering that he established the Pujols Family Foundation in 2005 to assist children with disabilities and Down Syndrome in the United States and the Dominican Republic.

“I know it’s weird to say it’s not about the money, but he plays this game with a passion to be the best,” said Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter in the “USA Today” article. “There’s nobody like him.”

As a final point, a custom for people advancing in any occupation that they have excelled in is to ask for more money. Anyone accusing Pujols of being too greedy should switch their point of accusation toward the system itself, not the individual. Baseball is Pujols’ job, so he ethically has no obligation to loyalty toward anyone. As stated above, this is not even an issue since Pujols has expressed his desires to retire a Cardinal more than once.

As if this were not enough already, it says a great deal about Pujols’ character when his teammates verbally express their concerns for the possible end of his journey on the Cardinals in an article in the “USA Today.”

“I don’t even want to think about him not being here,” left fielder Matt Holiday said. “He means everything to this organization.”