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What would you pay for this future Hall of Famer?

January 23, 2011

Clearly, the blog’s been quiet lately, and there’s a good—or at least straightforward—reason for that: I’m not enjoying this off-season much. By this time last year, Matt Holliday had put us all out of our anxious misery by rejecting lucrative offers from zero other teams and signing with the Cardinals, and I’d fallen madly and co-dependently in love with MLB Network. This year, MLBN is phoning it in (I turned on the channel this morning just in time to catch B.J. Surhoff’s first-round at-bat in the 1999 Home Run Derby—whew! almost missed it!), and the Cards’ contract talks with Albert Pujols are ominously quiet and uncomfortably tense, thanks to the spring-training deadline Pujols has imposed, wisely or not, upon the negotiations.

Obsessive superfan that I am, I devote a little time each day to checking the news for updates on the process, and to doing some mental Pilates in effort to wrap my brain around the numbers at stake. Common wisdom tells us that Pujols wants “A-Rod money”—that is, a contract comparable to A-Rod’s 10-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees. Like any decent human being, I’m appropriately appalled by figures like that. You can do a lot with $275 million. That’s as much as the U.S. spent on rain-forest preservation last year. It’s enough to buy an entire hockey team. It’s the annual cost to the United States of software piracy in Vietnam, for heaven’s sake!

On the other hand, it’s only 1/236th of the total amount Bernie Madoff swindled from his clients, and I think we can all agree that one Albert Pujols is worth at least as much as one million Bob Mackie collectible dolls. Heck, Michael Jackson made $275 million last year alone, and he’s dead.

What’s Albert Pujols worth? Well, here’s the paradox: The biggest reason that otherwise thrifty and intelligent St. Louisans think Pujols is worth big money is the precise reason that they think he shouldn’t want it so much. He’s one of us—a family man, a proud Midwesterner, a good-for-the-game mensch who sees beyond the paycheck and into the soul of the best baseball town in America. We’re willing to pay him $275 million because we don’t want to find out if he’s the kind of guy who’d walk away if he were offered less. We’re willing to shell out the piles of cash because he’s the sort of player who transcends the piles-of-cash mentality that has our favorite sport in its death-grip.

It doesn’t make much sense, but that’s baseball—a game of running in endless circles. Meanwhile, spring training, wonderfully and agonizingly, is just around the corner, and I’d like to see Pujols and the Cards get a deal done, not least of all because MLB Network is having a little too much fratty fun photoshopping his face into other teams’ uniforms. Pujols as a Cub? I’ll pay $275 million never to have to see that again.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    January 24, 2011 9:46 am

    “Heck, Michael Jackson made $275 million last year alone, and he’s dead.” I almost lost my keyboard to projectile coffee!

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