There was once a time when baseball players were heroes.
Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Greenberg, Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Bob Feller (just to name a few) all missed time in the prime of their careers because they were out fighting wars. These Hall of Famers put their lives on the line to defend our great country.
It doesn't get any more heroic than that.
Those days look to be long gone. In today's game it appears that everyone is just looking for the next big pay day.
I grew up in the great northwest and loved the Mariners growing up. I remember when Alex Rodriguez left for Texas to take the biggest contract in sports history. People hated him after that (still do), at least they did in Seattle. The fans threw monopoly money at him when he returned to Seattle.
Why do people root against A-Rod? It's simple: he's a money grabber (among other things, but the money is where it started). At least that's the perception that a lot people have about him.
This brings us to Albert Pujols. He's the best player in the game today. Hands down.
Pujols had been in talks with the Cardinals about signing an extension before the season began. Those talks now appear to be dead. The Cards deadline to have a deal done was today, and it didn't happen. Pujols, 31, was reportedly looking for a 10-year deal in the $300 million range.
Pujols will now be a free agent at the end of the 2011 season.
So what's going to happen with the slugger? He's going to be able to name his price when he hits the market next offseason. If he wants to be the richest man to ever step on the diamond, then he probably will be.
But is it really all about the money?
Pujols was baseball's last hope. He's the golden boy, the poster child, the savior or whatever you want to call him. He's the one guy who is threatening the record books that hasn't been linked to steroids. He's done everything right. Everyone has nothing but good things to say about him, he really can do no wrong.
Now he's faced with a decision: Get the money, or stay in St. Louis.
In this day and age we rarely see great players stay with one team throughout their entire careers. Ripken and Gwynn were the last guys that come to memory, and we have Jeter and Pujols today. It's a truly special accomplishment.
For the sake of baseball let's hope Pujols stays in St. Louis. How great would it be if for once, just once, a superstar turned down the money and stayed home (it's not like he'll be a poor man if he stays). It would unprecedented in today's sports world.
Baseball fans have put up with a lot over the past 10 or 15 years. Every guy they've tried to get behind has let them down in one way or another.
Take a stand Albert. Show us that it isn't always about how fat your wallet is.
Don't let us down. Baseball needs a hero.