Playing With Cards

As a Cincinnati native and a sometimes homer for the Reds, I can’t say that I was disappointed by the fact that the Cardinals lost out on Albert Pujols when he signed his massive 10-year, $254 million deal officially on Saturday.  You can’t always keep everyone that you like on your team, and the Reds and their fans will have to come to grips with that when Brandon Phillips, who hasn’t been able to reach an extension beyond the 2012 season, and Joey Votto, who will be a Free Agent after the 2013 season, leave for greener (literally, $$$$) pastures.

Pujols was a part of the St. Louis community, working with charities and even opening a restaurant.  What Cardinal fans, who will blame Pujols for his “greed” in this contract, need to understand is that the Cardinals made this decision.  They aren’t a New York, Boston or Los Angeles team, so when they signed Matt Holliday to his seven-year, $120 million deal in January of 2010, they knew then that they were changing the face of the franchise.  However unfair his departure to Los Angeles feels to fans, you have ownership and management to blame.

The Cardinals couldn’t have fielded a team if they were to give both Holliday and Pujols massive contracts.  Even having over 3 million fans and winning a World Series won’t get the revenue to St. Louis to survive those contracts.  They took their chances on hoping for a “hometown discount” with one of the greatest players in baseball history and they failed.

I bet my life that Pujols, even if he ages poorly, will outperform Matt Holliday over the next several seasons.  Holliday, whose best season came in 2007, hasn’t come close to his inflated Coor’s Field numbers since leaving Denver.  In 345 games (a little over two seasons) as a Cardinal, he has a nice .314/.394/.543 slash, with 97 2B, 3 3B, 63 HR and 233 RBI.  He also had the luxury of hitting around the most feared hitter in baseball.

If Pujols, in his worst season goes .299/.366/.541 with 29 2B, 37 HR and 99 RBI in 147 games and Holliday was worth $17 million a year to the Cardinals, shouldn’t the Cardinals have offered Pujols a 10-year, $300 million deal in January of 2010 and continued building around him with pieces?  It’s not every day that you can sign a lesser player to a better contract than someone who could have been the greatest player in franchise history in the end, and that’s saying a lot with Stan “The Man” around.  The Cardinals really screwed up a couple of years ago and the NL Central is now wide open due to their gaffe.  When a player has a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 88.7 over 11 seasons (8.06 is his average and 8 is MVP quality), you know you’re going to have some issues actually replacing him.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Cardinals never will.

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