Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak was already in a poor mood when he got the call.
Not even a week removed from a highly disappointing postseason exit and fielding all sorts of questions about the fallout of trading his best prospect for Matt Holliday and getting a LF who confused his glove with his scrotum and his bat with a prop for a photo shoot, he answered.
What he heard on the other end not only would catch him by surprise...it would rock the foundation of an entire city.
Speaking with CDN 92.5, a Dominican radio station, Albert Pujols, the reigning and future NL MVP publicly spoke on his contract situation for the first time in years. He acknowledged that the Cardinals had approached him with the intent of getting a long-term deal inked before 2010, but “feels no urgency” to do anything right away.
Mr. Pujols currently has one year left on his contract with a team option for 2011.
To many outsiders, the comments seem benign. And to a certain extent they are. But the fact that Mr. Mozeliak had publicly made the long-term signing of Pujols an offseason priority (some cynics might say to mask the impending departure of Matt Holliday), made the comments pop.
The GM himself expressed “surprise” to the interview. And the hits just keep coming for Cardinal Nation. The motivations for this interview are hazy.
Was Albert trying to motivate the Cardinals by publicly saying he was at least entertaining the idea of being a free-agent in two years? Could he genuinely not care that much at this point and doesn’t want to concern himself with the process? Was the tone of what he said lost in translation from Spanish to English?
Most likely the answer falls somewhere in between.
Pujols is coming off an extremely stressful season. After carrying a Cardinals team for the first half of 2009, he entered in the most protracted power slump of his career to end the season. While he will win the 2009 NL MVP award, he did it with more troubles with his habitually injured elbow and other reported lower body injuries.
He’s a warrior that expects more from himself than anyone can put on him.
And when everyone expects everything all the time, I think it’s fair to let a guy decompress before we press him for the meaning behind his comments.
That being said, St. Louis cannot lose Albert Pujols. Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, and Joel Pineiro are all good players, all nice guys many Cardinal fans would be delighted to see on Opening Day. But Albert Pujols is a different beast all together.
The impact on this city’s emotional and financial bottom lines would be so incredibly massive if Mr. Pujols left at the height of his potential that I’m not even comfortable thinking about it- let alone speculating on it in print. The man is everything to this city.
The only difference between St. Louis and Detroit is Albert Pujols. He’s the one thing that everyone can agree on and the main source of pride for roughly 98 percent of the residents here. In fact, it’s so very upsetting to even consider that I’m not going to delve into this any deeper.
I’m going to wait and see just what Albert meant and where his head is at come December. So here we were. Pissing and moaning about Matt Holliday and the sticky situation of his pending free agency and Mr. Pujols has to steal the show again. Showing Matt and his agent Scott Boras that in this town he’s always going to be second banana.
I feel like a hack column ending is appropriate right now: The 2010 hot stove has just begun. The Cardinals are already feeling the heat.
For more about this story, check out my Twitter buddy Joe Strauss and his story on this developing situation .