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St. Louis Cardinals Fans Move on From Albert Pujols Contract Deadline

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St. Louis Cardinals Fans Move on From Albert Pujols Contract Deadline
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Well, "Albertgeddon" has come and gone.  Finally.  

Everybody in St. Louis okay?  All present and accounted for?  Looks like there was minimal damage.

There is a sense of relief even if no contract extension was signed.  It's better than not knowing what's going to happen.

Much like Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa, I like to let things digest for a night. He doesn't like to address a player or fellow coach immediately after a loss in regards to something he may be upset about until the next day to control his emotions.

The Albert contract deadline certainly had some emotions involved. It also gave me a chance to hear from Pujols himself. You know, the guy whose life path will be determined by this contract. Might as well hear from him first right?

Pujols said he wants to be a Cardinal for life. Jason Stark is right to mention he didn't say "at any price."

But Pujols has to realize who he's dealing with.

The Cardinals don't ask for a hometown discount because they feel they deserve it or that the player should be willing to take less money for the privilege of playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. They've signed or offered other all-stars less money because they have to.

They are still a small-market team that can have a $100-million-plus  payroll because of their attendance.

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

They are 10th in profits and 10th in payroll. So it's not like they're getting by being miserly or cheap. They're being smart.

Should Pujols go after top dollar? Sure, it's his life, his prerogative and his contract. He's a very charitable guy, and probably has that in mind in these negotiations as well.

But I hope he understands saying he wants to "be a Cardinal for life," while potentially asking for a contract that isn't realistic for St. Louis, is a bit misleading to fans.

Pujols has never been on any other MLB team. And he's never had a sales pitch from another team or been wined and dined by them... well, just dined in Pujols' case.

But he's never trudged through a season that was over in August either. Even the 2007 hangover season had life in September.

Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Mark McGwire, Chris Carpenter, Matt Holliday and others had been elsewhere before, and had experienced less-than-desirable situations. To them it was worth a few million less than what they could have demanded in free agency or from another big-market team in Holliday's case to stick around with the Cardinals.

Perhaps, though, we're talking about more than a few million. Tough to know the truth. Pujols scoffed at the idea of him demanding 10 years and $300 million as has been reported.

"That's so funny because me and my agent talked every other day about you guys throwing numbers out there," Pujols said. "Assuming the Cardinals offered this and 'Albert is asking for 10 years' and we just laughed about it. I'm pretty sure the Cardinals are too because you guys don't have any clue. You guys are way off on what the numbers are you guys are throwing out there."

That's certainly reassuring. It does show he isn't making unrealistic demands.

If he were, I would have an entire omelet on my face after telling friends I thought he would sign for around $23 to $25 million before the Ryan Howard extension.

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I still thought there was a possibility he'd ask for A-Rod money, but took his statement of "I want to be a Cardinal for life" seriously. But perhaps we're only talking about a few million as the difference there as well.

Maybe he is still asking for A-Rod money, roughly $27 million per year. We've all assumed he wants to at least be paid as well as Ryan Howard. Pujols reportedly turned down $21 million per year over eight seasons. Which, if is true, is lower than I would offer.

Even though it's not my money to spend, I am realistic about the current baseball market.

I can't blame Pujols for asking for Ryan Howard money. But I also can't blame the Cardinals for thinking the Ryan Howard deal is an overpay as well and having the team's long-term financial security in mind.

But if Pujols really wants to stay with the Cardinals, why demand an amount the Cards feel is unfair? Will Pujols feel like he chickened out by not demanding for more? Will it be embarrassing for him to be considered the best hitter in the game, but not the highest paid at his position?

Is his pride—one of the seven deadly sins—part of his motivation?

Getting this next contract shouldn't be another competition for a competitive guy like Albert. It should be about finding the right compromise for him and the Cardinals, so he can remain on a competitive team without having to uproot. The higher paying job isn't always the best one to take.

I can't think of one Cardinal who left the team strictly for more money who ended up in a far better situation taking the cash St. Louis couldn't give them.

Anyone? Seriously, please tell me if you can think of one.

They only ones I can think of would be Edgar Renteria or J.D. Drew. But they are a mixed bag at best. I don't think I could consider either to be distinctly better off leaving St. Louis.

J.D. Drew is the Adrian Beltre of outfielders, and Renteria was shipped out of Boston after one season.

Renteria did well in Atlanta, struggled in Detroit and didn't stay healthy in San Francisco outside of a remarkable playoff run. Both he and Drew won titles and had some success, but would any of that had been better than staying in St. Louis and winning a World Series in 2006? Renteria's replacement got hot and won World Series MVP himself, after all.

But like Pujols said, this is all part of negotiations. There's a back and forth that happens. He should start high, the Cardinals should start low and eventually—hopefully—they'll meet near the middle.

The Cardinals unfortunately drug their feet on this, but are doing what a team normally does by trying to start off as low as possible.

They're taking an awful risk by letting the negotiations get to the post-World Series negotiating window. One team who wants to make a splash could throw a ton of money at him. Pujols' options are slightly limited in comparison to previous seasons, but there are still enough teams with a spot and money available. The Yankees could could always make a spot available too.

But again, we may be talking about a difference of a few million that Albert is willing to trade off. Perhaps $28 million from the Cubs is a wash with $25 million from the Cardinals, in which he would most likely choose the Cardinals.

So the Cardinals didn't make this deadline, but there are still more to be made. And though Pujols' comments may seem slightly contradictory, he did reassure fans he's not out to top the biggest, most foolish contract in baseball history.

The wild card in all of this is Pujols' agent Dan Lazano. He broke out on his own this past year, a la Jerry Maguire, leaving the Beverly Hills Sports Council.

He needs a big splash and big contract to put his business on the map.

What's he telling Albert? Is he telling Pujols he can get a mega deal, and that he should try for it? It seems as if it's been his intention all along to take this to free agency. Pujols considers Lazano a friend and would like to help him out as much Pujols would like to take care of himself.

Lazano is who I'm directing my angst towards, as I really dislike agents, if I can make any recommendations on that to Cardinals fans.

Basically, we're a tiny step closer to an extension than we were before the spring training deadline. The negotiations haven't gone horribly wrong, as Pujols has no ill will towards Cardinal management and still wants to try to work out a deal after the season.

I've said all along the negotiations would have to take a really bad tone for Pujols to consider signing with the Cubs.

He would have to hate the Cardinals to accept being hated by Cardinal fans. And that after all is the biggest fear of Cards fans in letting Pujols go to free agency.

Much like when Pujols is at the plate, he is trying to be patient in these negotiations and see every pitch. He usually makes good contact and pleases Cardinal fans. We just have to sit back, and hope that trend continues.

www.twitter.com/timfitz76

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