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February 16, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Albert Pujols and the Big Nothing

by Christina Kahrl

High noon came and went, and there was no news, no actual historical act, no splendiferous cashgasm that would leave Cardinals fans basking in the safe, fuzzy, warm knowledge that nothing was going to change, ever.

Which was news, because Albert Pujols agreeing to nothing is what passes for a story this time of year. That's silly, because the spectacular non-importance of this artificial non-decision cannot be overstated. Self-imposed lines in the sand on negotiating contracts are sort of like 10-and-5 rights or no-trade clauses: sure, they might matter, and they often matter, but they might also be just a matter of negotiation. The funereal intonations on the end of an era in St. Louis loses sight of the fact that, while the jabbercrats will have moved on to some new source of transient controversy and ephemeral significance, conversations between consenting adults on matters of actual import can still happen.

Of course, even if Albert doesn't prove pliable now that the hysteria has spent itself, there's also the possibility that he goes... nowhere. Ever. There will still be the club's exclusive negotiating window after the season. And after that, even once Pujols arms himself with the freedom to comparison-shop on the market, that only means that the Cardinals will be in the same position as before, to make a choice. They can make his Albertosity a fair offer, which as we know from the way the Cliff Lee deal worked out, isn't necessarily about reported dollar values—as Eric Seidman documented last month, not all dollar amounts are equally valuable from market to market.

If that costs the DeWitts and their associated business partners and their anciliary corporate hangers-on some extra pretty penny, what does that matter? If John Mozeliak was not empowered to make Pujols an offer he could not refuse, that's on the Cardinals, for now, but not forever. As we know from the expensive extensions for Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, the ill-conceived contract for Kyle Lohse, or the pricey retention of Matt Holliday to keep him from walking away, expense is not a frightening proposition for these people. The organization has more than half of its payroll commitments coming off the books after 2011, and that's with one more year of Lohse to pay off. The club's long-term financial picture is good. This is not just a great fan base, with the club drawing three million paying customers or more in 12 of the last 13 seasons, it's also one spoiled yet secure in the knowledge that the franchise hasn't lost 90 games in a season in 20 years, and hasn't lost 100 since the last time the Cubs won the World Series. A Pujols defection represents the only thing that might actually hurt their bottom line, a matter of brand management you can be sure enters into their calculations. If this latest round of financial negotiations was fruitless for the moment, that''s not to say it wasn't informative for both parties, and might provide the basis of a deal, by providing the opportunities for frank exchanges on the subject of expectations.

So, Albert Pujols is a Cardinal, and he's overwhelmingly likely to be one for the duration as far as this season's and the balance of his contract is concerned. Albert Pujols is a Cardinal, and his club has as good a chance as ever to win the NL Central. Albert Pujols is a Cardinal, now and perhaps forever, because there is nothing—nothing—that stands in the way of that being the case, save rational consideration and everyone's capacity to agree to disagree. It's a free country, and Albert Pujols freely chose—to do nothing. I'd suggest, in their responses, that folks take their cue from him, because that's all it is: nothing happened.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

11 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

superflymil

Christina your writing is incredible. It makes my day to read anything you write. Keep up the great work!!

Feb 16, 2011 10:35 AM
rating: 1
 
Keven K
(939)

Thank you, Christina! This has been a non-issue for some time that much of the media will not let go from reporting (nothing). ESPN radio made it sound like a breaking news story 45 minutes before the "deadline".........

Feb 16, 2011 10:44 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Like I said on Monday, there's a serious overcapacity in the commentariat, so nothing gets to be something as a matter of self-assigned make-work.

Feb 16, 2011 11:17 AM
 
JimmyJack

"Cashgasm"

I love coin phrasing.

Feb 16, 2011 10:48 AM
rating: 3
 
hessshaun

So read an article about nothing. This is like Buddhism.

Feb 16, 2011 11:17 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Perhaps, and point well taken, but I'd focus on the positive, which is that there's nothing about today's non-event that prevents Pujols from being a Cardinal over the entirety of his career.

Feb 16, 2011 11:27 AM
 
hessshaun

No complaints from me, just ironic when that is the conclusion. As I sit here working with the press conference on MLB.................

Feb 16, 2011 11:52 AM
rating: 0
 
saigonsam

I seem to remember that after ARod signed his deal in Texas, there was an outcry that Boras had the Rangers negotiating against themselves. I wonder if that is what the Cardinals are worried about doing now, and maybe they will have more leverage later if the 2nd best offer is much less than their current offer.

Feb 16, 2011 17:41 PM
rating: 0
 
hankfiddich

The title of this post made me think of Elliott Smith's "Ballad of Big Nothing" and the nothing from The Never Ending Story. I second the cashgasm kudos.

Feb 16, 2011 17:49 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Nicely done, you touched on one of my reference points. And how many times do you get an excuse to remember Kaja Goo Goo in polite conversation? OK, too many, obviously, but I couldn't help myself.

Feb 16, 2011 22:03 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

"These look like big, good, strong hands don't they?"

- Borrowed by Albert Pujols

Feb 17, 2011 13:32 PM
rating: 0
 
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