Being Rich and Stupid

Now that our Boys of Summer are actually on the fields in Fort Myers, there’s plenty of people down there writing about it. I’m not down there yet (25 days and counting before I’m there, though!), so I’ll write about other stuff today.

Albert Pujols

I know I already wrote a full post on the subject a while back, but now that Albert Pujols has reported to the Cardinals’ Spring Training without a contract in place and has reaffirmed that the negotiations won’t resume until November when he hits free agency, it’s hard not continue drawing parallels with the Joe Mauer situation a year ago.

I know some people say one difference is that Mauer certainly would have had both the Yankees and Red Sox bidding for him on an open market, but that those two teams would likely not be bidding up the price on Pujols, since they both will have All-Star first basemen already on board with multi-year contracts. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe for a moment that, should Pujols actually file for free agency, one, or more likely both, of those teams wouldn’t make a serious play for the best hitter in baseball.

Boston has a ton of money coming off the books after this season (none of it regarding players they should try too hard to keep) and everyone knows the Yankees don’t have a payroll limit. Anyone who thinks that these teams wouldn’t go after Pujols because they already have first basemen under contract apparently hasn’t heard that the American League has adopted this new-fangled thing called a Designated Hitter. David Ortiz’s contract with the Red Sox is up after 2011 and they’d happily let him go to make room for Pujols; and last I heard, the Yankees were looking for Jorge Posada to be their primary DH. Hmmmm… Posada or Pujols… I dunno… that’s a REAL tough choice.

Here’s another thing I don’t understand about the Pujols deal. Why the heck would Pujols’ agent let him do something so stupid as to set a purely artificial “deadline” for reaching an agreement, like the “opening of Spring Training”? In doing so, he’s yielded the high ground to the Cardinals, who get to say, “we are willing to talk whenever Albert wants to talk”. They come off looking like the only reasonable parties while Pujols let’s himself get cast as the greedy jerk who’s trying to blackmail his mid-market ballclub.

The whole “I don’t want it to be a distraction” thing is bull. Does he really think nobody is going to talk about the situation all year just because he’s said he won’t negotiate? When he won’t answer questions about it, reporters will just keep asking his team mates about it (no distraction there, right?). EVERY series with the Cubs is going to be accompanied by sidebar articles written about the likelihood Pujols could be calling Wrigley Field home next season and that will happen whether the two sides are still talking or not. So why not keep talking? By the way, yes, I thought the same thing when Mauer’s side set a deadline of the end of Spring Training for reaching a deal last year. It’s just stupid, to me.

Stupid Owners

Speaking of stupid… I’m not sure whether anyone still is under the misperception that the wealthiest people in the world all got that way because they are inherently smarter than the rest of us, but if so, I think we can now officially put that theory to rest.

Sure, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are examples of people who had brilliant ideas and earned bajillions of dollars by bringing those ideas to the marketplace. But for every Steve Jobs, there’s also a Fred Wilpon. Whenever I even think for a moment about questioning the way the Pohlad family runs the Twins organization, all I have to do to feel better is spend 10 minutes reading pretty much anything written about these owners:

Fred Wilpon – Mets: Just when we thought he couldn’t make ANY decision worse than hiring Steve Phillips and Omar Minaya as GMs, we find out he also find a way to not only get swindled by Bernie Madoff, but also manage to get sued by the other victims (each of them a rich and stupid person in his/her own right, most likely) of Madoff’s scheme… and he could lose his baseball team as a result. By the way… hey, Johan, how’s that decision to force a trade to the Mets looking right now?

Jamie and Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt – Dodgers: Note to all owners… never let your spouse help you run your baseball team… even if she’s actually better at it than you are (in fact, ESPECIALLY if she’s better at it than you are)… and if you’re dumb enough to do that, don’t compound your stupidity by trying to throw her out over something as trivial as a little infidelity. After all, in Los Angeles, isn’t that pretty much expected?

Arte Moreno – Angels: Face it, we knew he was stupid when he gave Torii Hunter a deal that was worth twice what anyone else was offering, but to trade with Toronto for the privilege of taking over their payments to Vernon Wells is an even dumber move. If only the Twins had known they could have given Torii an absurd long term contract and just kept him for one or two productive seasons and then dumped him on the Angels for the last few years!

UPDATE… Miggy: In the comment section, AW appropriately inquires how I could do a “Being Rich and Stupid” post and not mention Tigers’ All-Star Miguel Cabrera. As I responded in the comments, I felt it was a sad situation and was inclined to hold off jumping on him immediately… hoping he’d finally get the help he needs. Then I read thisand this (via Baseball Outsider’s links)… and now, I’m officially ready to say, “Wow are you stupid!” Not so much at Miggy (though clearly he has behaved stupidly), but for now, assigning the label to the Tigers organization. They’re going to pay this guy $106 million over the next five years and despite his past and current behaviors, the first words out of the mouths of their GM and Manager are to reassure the fans that they want their All-Star drunk in camp as soon as possible and that he won’t miss any playing time. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d be more concerned with looking at how to make sure I’m not throwing money down a well for the next five years than whether he’s going to miss any time for the next few weeks. A little tough love might be in order here, but get the man some help, for cryin’ out loud.

A Couple of Non-stupid Links

I like Brian Wilson (the Giants’ closer, not the Beach Boy… well I like Beach Boys music, too, but that’s a bit off subject). Check out this Q&A with Wilson from Jon Wertheim at si.com. I think the Twins should trade for Wilson. After all, if you’re going to have two closers on your team, why not just go ahead and have three? And Wilson thinks a lot like I do… or at least a lot like I would like to think I would think if I were a Major League pitcher.

Joe Sheehan, also at si.com, might have had the best single line I read this week, in his article on the opt-out clause in Captain Cheeseburger’s contract with the Yankees: “Opt-out clauses are the most player-friendly part of baseball since groupies.” Hmmm… opt-out clauses and groupies… I really should have worked harder to develop a good sinking fastball when I was in high school. Ah well, probably too late to do anything about it now.

That’s it for today. Have a great weekend!

- JC

6 thoughts on “Being Rich and Stupid

  1. I have to say, I really don’t think Pujols came off looking that bad. As happens now, details leaked about what the Cardinals offered. Regardless of whether these leaked amounts were correct, the truth of the matter is that the reported numbers were not even in the ballpark of his market value, which, as you aptly noted, very well might be determined (and increased) by the Yankees and Red Sox.
    You are correct that the deadline will not operate so as to prevent a distraction. Every series, especially on the road, is going to be a headache for Pujols and all his teammates. I have to think, if the Cardinals in June call Pujols’ agent with a 10 year $300 million offer, he probably would take it right then just to get the media off his back.
    The circus this Wednesday definitely made me appreciate, even more, the Twins’ negotiations with Mauer last year.

  2. A column titled “Being Rich and Stupid” related to baseball and not one mention of Miggy? (Okay, there’s a lot more than stupidity to his behavior but he deserves at least a mention in the rich and stupid category today.)

  3. AW, you’re probably right about Albert not looking as bad once the dollar amounts of the Cards’ offer was leaked, but it’s the fact that he’s said “I won’t negotiate now” that I think makes him look like the bad guy. And it’s unnecessary since, as you said, if the Cards DID feel inclined to make a huge offer, there’s no way Pujols’ agent wouldn’t consider it. By the way, I don’t happen to think St Louis should pay him anywhere near what he’s demanding. And his posturing is playing right in to their hands… it gives them cover. “We would have kept negotiating and maybe come up with a deal, but he said ‘no negotiating’”.

    JB, I considered adding something about Cabrera, but there’s part of me that just feels like that would be piling on to what’s essentially a very sad situation, right now. I’ll hold off my criticism while we wait to find out if he’s going to acknowledge his problem and really seek help this time. If he doesn’t, then yes… he’s right at the top of the stupid list and he’s fair game.

  4. Good points, Jim.
    If there was ever a situation for some sort of a creative “legacy contract,” this might be it. I’d like to see Pujols give them some sort of discount, especially if he wants to play for a winning team the remainder of his career. I think, just off the top of my head, 10 years, $25 million a year, and something like $2 million a year for 10 years after that (after he retires) to be the face of the franchise/special assistant/whatever it’s called where he has an office, comes down to spring training, is out in the community doing goodwill things, and is right up there with Stan The Man as Mr. Cardinal.

  5. I’d guess that some players like to cut off negotiations, when their real goal is to test the free agent market in a year, so that they don’t have to answer questions about shifting numbers during the season. Like, suppose someone in the Cards front office decides to float some numbers to a local beat writer in July, which might make Pujols the highest-paid player over the next 7 years (if the offer were legitimate). Every Cards fan would want to know, why won’t he take that? And if he’s supposedly “in negotiations,” he’d be expected to comment every time some new set of numbers gets floated in the media. But if negotiations have been formally suspended, yeah, he’ll still have to deal with some commotion whenever the Cards visit a major market, but he won’t really be expected to answer questions about rumored offers and why hasn’t he signed an extension already. If he’s even asked about the issue, he can just fall back on his stock answer, “We’ll deal with that after the season. Right now, I’m just focused on my performance and doing all I can to help the Cardinals win a World Series this season.”

  6. frightwig, if a guy is dead set on testing free agency, absolutely… put out a drop dead date and stick to it. But in that case, the player frankly isn’t all that concerned with “legacy” or any of the other stuff that Pujols apparently wants people to believe is important to him. If you are genuinely interested in being a lifelong icon of your team and community, don’t do stupid things that make you look bad to the fans and local media.

    Tom Verducci today quoted a “source close to Pujols” as saying, “It’s not about greed with Albert. It’s about pride.” And if I’m the Cardinals, my response would be, “I don’t care what you say it’s ‘about’, you’re trying to force me to pay history-making money to you until you’re over 40 years old and to commit to doing it a year before you’re a free agent. Screw you!” Then I would do two things: First, I’d make sure everyone in town knew their beloved alter boy star was more concerned about his greed… oh, sorry… his PRIDE… than he was about being a Cardinal. Second, I’d tell my Manager to make sure we got every ounce of sweat and blood out of this turnip this season, because we aren’t going to end up caring whether he’s healthy next year. In my mind, either Pujols really IS the greedy, prideful, jerk who is only concerned about making more money than A-Rod OR he’s an idiot who is making it way too easy for the Cardinals to make him look like it.