Do the Cardinals need to win World Series to keep Albert Pujols?
Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss whether the St. Louis Cardinals' success in keeping soon-to-be free agent Albert Pujols is contingent on the team winning the World Series. Check back throughout the day for more responses and weigh in with a comment of your own.
Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times
The short answer is yes, Albert Pujols is absolutely coming back to St. Louis.
Well, probably. Oh, just say maybe.
Truth is, even Pujols doesn't know what he's going to do. And he's refusing to talk about it now. "Let's talk about how I can help my team bring another World Series to the greatest fans in baseball," he said Tuesday.
Those "greatest fans" are likely to play heavily in Pujols' off-season thinking, as will his charity work and his business ties in St. Louis.
The clincher, though, may be the offers he gets. Pujols reportedly was looking for 10 years and $300 million. He won't get either. The lessons of Alex Rodriguez, who has struggled since signing a 10-year, $275-million extension with the Yankees, will lead to caution. So unless Pujols does markedly better than the seven years and $200 million the Cardinals have already offered, look for him to remain in St. Louis.
Winning the World Series always means one thing for a franchise: more money to spend on everything, including players. But I don't see that really impacting the Cardinals and Albert Pujols the way it might another prospective free agent.
The Cardinals already have a huge season-ticket base, so they're not going to get a big leap in attendance the following year or two, the way some champions do. And even if they did, that would only increase revenue for a year or two, not the eight years that Pujols wants in a new contract.
The Cardinals are up against it. Pujols is entering free agency with a tremendous case to become the highest-paid player in history, and St. Louis is one of baseball's smallest markets. Keeping Pujols is possible. Keeping Pujols and putting a competitive team around him might be impossible. Win or lose in the World Series, the math points to him hanging up his No. 5 St. Louis jersey for good after next week.
[Updated at 11:59 a.m.:
Juan C. Rodriguez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
No, it's contingent on the Cardinals compensating Pujols commensurate with the fact that he's the game's best hitter. However unlikely, Pujols could go 0-for in the World Series in a four-game Rangers sweep, and the heaving and retching in St. Louis would be no less widespread were he to ever don a different uniform.
This is like asking whether the Arch being transplanted to Chicago is contingent on tourism numbers. Pujols' Cardinals legacy is cemented. Sure, he can add to it by bringing an 11th World Series title to St. Louis, but its foundation has long set. A free agent after 2010, Derek Jeter's return to the Yankees didn't hinge on the club winning or even reaching the World Series.
Pujols was one point and one RBI shy of an 11th straight .300-30-100 season. Good luck to Cardinals management trying to justify not re-signing Pujols, regardless of the World Series outcome.]
[Updated at 1:43 p.m.:
Steve Gould, Baltimore Sun
If the Cardinals win the World Series, the Machine will be staying stationary. In fact, I’m not convinced he’d leave St. Louis even if the Cardinals were to lose.
The Cardinals are the only team Albert Pujols, who played high school ball and a year of community college ball in Missouri, has known in 11 spectacular seasons in the majors. He already has one World Series championship, and while the Cardinals might not be shoo-ins to contend every year, they certainly have the pieces to do so.
Matt Holliday and David Freese aren’t going anywhere. The rotation, always a strength under pitching coach Dave Duncan, should benefit from the return of a (hopefully) healthy Adam Wainwright.
I wouldn’t expect any hometown discounts, but as long as the Cardinals pony up the money, one of the best players in history should be ending his career in St. Louis.]
Photo: Albert Pujols. Credit: John Gress / Reuters