Friday, December 9, 2011

Albert Pujols, Michael Cuddyer and the desire for more

John Mozeliak, general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals,
contemplates life without Albert Pujols. He might also have
the same expression thinking about the possibility of
paying the slugger $20 million-plus when he's in his 40s.
Before the Beatles told us I don't care too much for money/Money can't buy me love, they sang: Give me money/That's what I want.

Albert Pujols had the love and admiration of the St. Louis area, and tossed it aside this week for an extra $40 million or so. You and I probably would have done the same. Forty million? I don't know that I could spend that much in a lifetime, but I might like to try.

Pujols was, in truth, underpaid during his 11 seasons in a Cardinals uniform; while it may seem ridiculous to say that someone who made $104 million in 11 years was underpaid, he provided his team with well over $330 million in production. As wealthy as Pujols was before he signed his deal with Anaheim, he knew he has been underpaid in St. Louis, and it's a safe bet that bugged him. "Hometown discount"? He's given that already.

The Cardinals, to use a metaphor Bill James deployed in the late '80s, ate the heart of the watermelon that is Pujols' career. The Angels are paying for the rind.

It's been said that there's no such thing as a bad one-year contract. By the same token, there's no such thing as a good 10-year contract. The Angels jumped eagerly into the deep end of that pool this week, and nobody's standing by with a life preserver for them.

(It will be an interesting race to watch. Which deal goes bad for Anaheim first: $254 million/10 years for Pujols, or $77.5 million/five years for C.J. Wilson? My guess is the Wilson deal goes sour first.)

Then there's Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer is no Pujols, of course. The money is lower, the talent is lower, the stakes are lower. But again, Cuddyer has made more money playing baseball than you and I have made doing what we do (I say that assuming Glen Taylor isn't reading this), and there has grown, I believe, a genuine affection between player, community and franchise.

And yet there is a standoff now between player and team. He wants more; the team is reluctant to oblige. In my view, the three-year, $24 million offer reportedly made this week pushes the envelope of Cuddyer's value to the Twins. It's justifiable, but I don't think they should add years or money to it.

He wants more. We all want more. Money can't buy me love -- but it can rent it for a while.

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