Albert Pujols is in the final year of his contract.
In Oliver Stone's 1987 film Wall Street, ambitious stockbroker Bud Fox gets into a heated argument with his hero Gordon Gekko, a Wall Street legend known for always being on the winning end of corporate deals.
After learning that Gekko has wrecked and decided to sell off his dad's friends and employer, Fox confronts Gekko. The following exchange takes place in the film:
Fox: "How many yachts can you water ski behind? How much is enough?"
Gekko: "It's not a question of enough pal, it's a zero sum game. Somebody wins, somebody loses."
Albert Pujols, the three-time Most Valuable Player, today ended talks for the rest of the season on a new contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, meaning that five days after the end of the World Series, Pujols will officially become a free agent.
Pujols, who is reportedly asking for a 10-year contract worth at least $30 million a season, was offered an eight-year deal in the neighborhood of $25 million a season. With contracts talks going nowhere, Pujols ended his self-imposed deadline an hour early.
In his first 10 seasons in the league, Pujols has homered 408 times, driven in 1,230 runs and batted .331. He is the only player in the history of Major League Baseball to have 10 straight seasons of at least 30 home runs, 100 RBI and a .300 batting average.
Pujols is without question, the most dominant baseball player in the game today. It's Pujols, then everybody else is No. 2.
How would you rate Albert Pujols' contract demands?
Yet, the question begs to be asked, are Pujols' demands pure greed, or purely justified?
If there is one word to describe the economic situation currently in the United States, bad would be that word.
Things are so bad that the President of the United States has called for drastic spending cuts, has frozen government salaries and has placed a hiring freeze. The Speaker of the House recently came out saying that if government employees lost their jobs, "so be it."
In these tough economic times when the Federal Government itself is trying to restructure how they spend money, company franchises are filing for bankruptcy and the unemployment rate at its highest since the early 1980s, it's almost thought numbing to see that a baseball player is not only asking for a pay raise, but a historical pay raise at that.
In 2004, Albert Pujols signed a seven-year deal worth $100 million with an option for an eighth season at $16 million. Pujols has completely honored his contract, never once opting out the way other sports athletes have done.
Alex Rodriguez, for example, who holds the record for the biggest contract in sports history, signed a 10-year $252 million contract in 2001 with the Texas Rangers, which included an option to opt out of his deal after seven years. In 2004, Rodriguez was traded the Yankees and in 2007, opted out of his deal in favor of a new and much bigger contract of 10 years, $275 million.
Rodriguez's new contract, signed when he was 32 years old, all but assured that he would remain a New York Yankee for the remainder of his career. Much of the contract was centered around Rodriguez chasing the all-time home run record—incentive driven, the contract could balloon to $305 million.
Two years later, news broke that Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003.
Pujols, on the other hands, has never had any steroid allegations brought up. No connection to BALCO, no positive drug test and more importantly, no links to Jose Canseco. At 31 years old and with 10 years in the league, Pujols has not only put up Hall of Fame numbers, he's put up historical numbers that may never be surpassed.
But in this economy, is $300 million over 10 seasons really necessary? Pujols is already the best player in the game today, and may go down as the greatest baseball player of all time, but does he also need to become the first athlete to sign for $300 million?
When he opted out of his $252 million contract, Alex Rodriguez took a public beating from fans who called him selfish and greedy. Already the highest paid player in the country, Rodriguez re-signed for $275 million, despite still having three years left on his old contract.
The public reaction so far has been mixed with Pujols. Pujols already has enough money, so what is $300 million more?
In the words of Bud Fox, "How much is enough?"
Selected in the 13th round of the 1999 Major League Baseball draft, 402nd overall, Albert Pujols quickly rose up the ranks of the minor leagues, making his pro debut in 2001. By 2003, Pujols had won a batting title, was a two-time All-Star, a two-time second place finisher in the MVP race and had been named Rookie of the Year.
Pujols was headed to arbitration when the Cardinals agreed to a seven-year deal worth $100 million with an eighth year option for $16 million. The year before he signed his new deal, Pujols made $950,000 and finished second in the MVP race.
Since signing his 2004 contract, Pujols has been named to the All-Star team seven times, been named league MVP three times and has appeared twice in the World Series, winning once in 2006.
During that span, Pujols has never once opted out, sat out or complained publicly of his contract. He has been everything Alex Rodriguez wasn't, and on top of it all, he's been doing it steroid-free.
Now his contract is just about up, and Pujols is looking not only to become the highest paid player in the league, which he should rightfully be, but he's also looking for compensation for his accomplishments from his previous contract.
The overall value of the Cardinals more than doubled since Pujols became a regular starter, from $219 million in 2000 to $488 million in 2010, this according to Forbes.com.
Everywhere the Cardinals travel, people flock to see Albert Pujols. Jersey and ticket sales, memorabilia, bobbleheads, autographs, Pujols has been nothing but money to the Cardinals, and for the last seven or eight seasons, the Cardinals have greatly benefited from the 2004 contract.
Now that it may be time to pay the piper, it seems the Cardinals are balking.
Is Albert Pujols the best player in the game today? Yes. Does Albert Pujols deserve to be the highest paid player in the league? Yes.
Pujols is 31 years old and people have suggested that the Cardinals are unwilling to sign him to a 10-year deal because, as poet Robert Frost once said, "Nothing gold can stay." Pujols will get older and eventually, his numbers will start to decline (unless he pulls a Barry Bonds).
Yet, Pujols has done things on the field no other player in the history of the league has ever done. Not Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. or Joe Dimaggio.
Pujols has also done something rarely seen in the sports world today: remain loyal to his contract. How many times have you seen or heard of an athlete signing a contract, then opting out when they felt they met or exceeded the contract prior to the deal expiring?
In the end, the fundamental question remains, are the contract demands of Albert Pujols based on greed, or are they based on the justification of exceeding his previous contract?
Only time will tell, and if you believe Albert Pujols, then the St. Louis Cardinals time have may already expired.