Deadline Day: St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols to End Discussions

James Stewart-MeudtCorrespondent IIFebruary 16, 2011

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 23:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St Louis Cardinals rounds the bases after hitting his second home run of the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on September 23, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals and first baseman Albert Pujols will let today's noon deadline pass, ending contract negotiations between the two sides and sending Pujols into free agency.

Pujols is entering the final season of the seven-year, $100 million contract he signed with the Cardinals in 2004. The greatest player in the game gave his team a discount then; he's not going to be so generous this time.

And so it seems Pujols is about the become the most sought after free agent of 2012, maybe even in baseball history.

And despite what will happen during the regular season, how many games the Philadelphia Phillies "Phab Four" win, how many home runs Adrian Gonzalez hits, or even who wins the World Series, all anyone will be talking about is where Prince Albert will sign when it's all over.

Last season, Pujols hit .312 with 42 home runs and 118 RBIs. He's been the face of the Cardinals franchise for the last 10 seasons—the whole of his career.

Albert Pujols is to the Cardinals what Derek Jeter is to the New York Yankees.

But that was until noon today. Now he's set to become the face of another team; wear  another team's colors; carry another team into the postseason.

If you're a Cardinals fan, this could be the worst day of your life. Well, maybe it's not that dramatic, but it certainly feels that way for the first day at least. However, if you're looking for someone to blame for the collapse of the contract negotiations, there really isn't any one or any thing.

Pujols gave the Cardinals the hometown discount six years ago, he doesn't have to do it again. Any list of the "most underpaid players in baseball" should have Pujols listed as No. 1.

Pujols is reportedly seeking a 10-year, $300 million contract. It's no secret that he's using Alex Rodriguez's record-setting 10-year, $275 million contract he signed with the Yankees in 2007 as a benchmark for his new deal.

If you're a Yankee-hater and a Pujols fan, you're probably blaming the Yankees for the Cardinals' current situation. Don't do that. In the end, you're worth what someone is willing to pay for you.

Is Jayson Werth worth $125 million? Probably not, but his paychecks say otherwise. Pujols has been the most dominant and impressive player in baseball for the past decade, and he deserves to be paid accordingly.

Since 2001, Pujols has hit just 16 fewer home runs and driven in just six less runs than Rodriguez, yet he's made $155.3 million LESS. The man needs to get paid.

He's not LeBron James, bolting from his long-time team to form a super-team somewhere else. Well, until we know where Pujols will sign, I suppose that could happen. But unless he signs with the Boston Red Sox or the Yankees, you really can't make the comparison.

The Cardinals have known this day was coming. They knew having the best player in the game would mean you'd have to pay him eventually. Reportedly, the rift between the two sides isn't number of years, it's annual salary. The contract offered by the Cardinals would have put Pujols in the top 10 in annual salary, but not the top 5.

The Cardinals expect Pujols to be outside the top 5 in terms of salary? That's not going to happen and it's not because Pujols is greedy.

If you ask Cardinals manager Tony La Russa why they weren't able to re-sign Pujols, he'll tell you it's because the MLB Player's Union was pressuring Pujols to take the most money, which isn't coming from St. Louis. La Russa called the pressure "an anvil thrown on Pujols' back." That's ridiculous.

First of all, yes, Pujols should try to get as much as he can while he still can—any one of us would in his position—but no one tells Albert Pujols what to do. To think Pujols got a phone call from the Players Union, telling him to leave St. Louis for greener pastures is crazy.

Pujols is going to be a free agent, that much we know. Where he'll sign, we can only speculate for now. Pujols has said he will not negotiate again during the season because he doesn't want to be distracted and he'll veto any trade. So for now, Pujols remains a St. Louis Cardinal, a part of the team he's said he wants to play for for the rest of his career.

I guess we'll find out if that's true or not.