St. Louis Cardinals fans can already see the writing on the wall, they sit six games behind the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers and their team is playing uninspired ball: Games that should be won are lost, leaving many to scratch their heads.
However, what many Cardinals fans have seemingly forgot about or have chose to forget entirely is that Albert Pujols, the teams best player, is not under contract for next season. It seems so long ago now, but the one they call King Albert made a scene early in Spring Training about wanting a long-term, big-money contract.
Both sides negotiated, but they remained far apart, apparently so far apart that Pujols decided he no longer wished to negotiate with the club until after the season. You may ask how can the Cardinals can even think of not giving Pujols the money he wants?
Well, a $30 million per year asking price is enough to even make thew New York Yankees blush, so how can a mid-market such as St. Louis pay that much money for one player? Added into the mix is Pujols’ desire to have it be a 10-year contract and you really have problems.
The former National League MVP is still producing eye-popping numbers in his Cardinals red, but they are a NL team, meaning they do not have the benefit of the DH. Pujols is currently 31 years of age and even a eight-year contract brings him to almost 40.
Is it possible that Pujols can still be a productive hitter and fielder at that advanced age? Sure. But is it more likely that he will no longer be able to play the field and they are stuck with a very expensive bench option?
One has to only look at the Yankees and their decision to give Alex Rodriguez a shiny new deal and where that leaves them now. Rodriguez is no longer the feared hitter he once was and has to be the DH regularly because of a problem-filled hip. This same scenario could happen to Pujols.
However, lets take money out of the equation for arguments sake. Pujols has already established himself as one of the game’s greatest hitters. Since the moment he has taken the big stage, Pujols has flashed leather, showed a keen batting eye and tremendous power.
In fact, he is the first person ever to have achieved 11-consecutive seasons of 30 or more home runs to start his major league career. That is a stability of greatness. Over those years, the perennial All-Star has accomplished many individual awards, but has only tasted one World Series Championship.
To quote a former football coach, “You play to win the game.” It’s as simple as that, the reason Major League players continue to work on their trade and continually give it their all, day in and day out is to ultimately win a championship.
Pujols has witnessed many years where the Cardinals sat atop the National League Central every year, but now he has seen that stop. He has the seen the building of a young but talented team in the Brewers, one that is set up to contend for years to come.
The Cardinals meanwhile have struggled to find the pieces to match-up with their division foes. Mariano Rivera has made a career out of postseason success and you can be sure Pujols wants to have a chance to experience the same kind of success.
He may not be able to fulfill that dream in St. Louis, so the question is this: Why would King Albert want to stay in St. Louis.
Cardinals management better have a good answer to give Pujols when the question is asked or one of the best players in baseball will leave for a new journey.
Ryan Lazo is a contributing writer for i70 Baseball. He is also a Senior Writer for BaseballDigest.com. He can reached at RMLazo13@gmail.com, followed on Twitter @RMLazo13 and read his blog Artificially Enhanced.