Albert Pujols: Sign The Contract (Updated)

Ken Rosenthal of MLB Net/Fox Sports now tweets that the Cardinals’ offer referenced below may average closer to $21 million, not $25 million a year, but hints the offer could be for ten years rather than eight. This makes that mountain of Do-What-Makes-You-Happy a little steeper of a climb. On the other hand, Albert Pujols is in pretty good shape.
I must confess to being amazed to have just heard a panel discussion among three of my favorite people in baseball – Jerry Manuel, Dan Plesac, and Harold Reynolds – in which they insisted Pujols was absolutely right and the Cardinals were absolutely wrong, and Pujols just could not keep his head up were he to have only the tenth highest salary in baseball. Jerry Manuel actually said other players might taunt Pujols by saying “you only got how much, Albert?”
If you cannot turn around and say “I got 21 million dollars, how much did you get?” you’d have to have the thin skin of a grape.

Seriously? Who’s going to taunt him? Joe Mauer? A-Rod?


The first time the Major League Baseball Players Association went out on strike during the regular season, I was a gung-ho Yankees fan of 13, whose father had just stunned him with the announcement that there would be no vacation that year because he had spent the money on season tickets at Yankee Stadium.

The strike postponed the kind of triumph only a 13-year old can fully savor with breath-shortening joy: Walking in to The Stadium not as just a fan, but as one of the regulars. And I still supported that players’ strike, on the easy-to-digest premise that if my father had the right to change jobs when his contract was up, why shouldn’t Mel Stottlemyre? 
With rare exceptions, like its stance on testing for performance-enhancing drugs (in particular the 2002 strike-averting agreement), I have had few major disagreements with the union’s positions, even as I literally paid for my support with increased ticket prices. There are two simple truths at play here: a) this is America, and provided you do not break the law you are entitled to earn as much money as you conceivably can; and b) the idea that “player salaries alone caused ticket prices to go up” is nonsensical: it assumes that if salaries were still what they had been in 1972, the owners would never have raised prices, even though it has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that fans at every level have willingly paid those prices, and have in fact bought more and more tickets, the more the prices have gone out. Average salaries were stagnant for half a century, and ticket prices still went up.
This long preamble is presented because I’m going to do something I have rarely done. I am going to suggest that a superstar player of extraordinary ability and consistency is completely in the wrong in his contract negotiations, and needs to make a decision based on common sense, and not one based on pressure to feed his agents, and not one designed to keep feeding a salary growth curve that is acceptable to the Players Association, and especially not one based on 21st Century America’s assumption that getting more money out of it is an acceptable explanation for any human conduct.
That player is, of course, Albert Pujols.
We do not have exact numbers here. We know that with today’s artificial deadline imposed, Pujols insists he will not negotiate with the Cardinals until the off-season and that he has set himself on a path towards free agency next winter. It is widely reported Pujols is seeking a ten-year deal worth an average of $30 million a year, and it is now reported he has been offered an eight-year deal worth an average of more than $25 million a year.
He should take it.
There is, in fact, a point past which you and your family and your descendants, and your agents and, if you wish, everybody in your neighborhood and your home town, can be rich forever unless they screw it up. There is, in fact, actually a point past which your employer can no longer make even $1.98 in profit by paying you $200,000,000, and will have to let you go elsewhere. And there is, in fact, actually a point in which going somewhere else jeopardizes everything you’ve done in your career, and indefensibly hurts the employers and fans who have helped you achieve this salary range, and – most importantly – risks your happiness and satisfaction in the career you feel privileged to have.
I don’t know where you think that point is, where the numbers blur and the low end of the deal and the high end of the deal are at such exalted levels that the difference they make becomes merely theoretical. I once changed jobs and saw my income jump to $42,000. Trust me: in context, it was all the money in the world. For others the figure might be $100,000. Or a million. Or ten. 
It is one thing to be paid at that figure and find your employers embittered at you, or somehow abusing you, or somehow undermining you, or somehow denying you whatever achievement you desire (in baseball, read “another World Series”). Then, one departs, whether the salary offer is $30,000,000 a year or $30,000. That’s a case of looking for friendlier pastures rather than merely financially greener ones.
But if $25,000,000 a year from people with whom you are happy seems like some kind of failure or risk or insult to you – if you are willing to trade away a place you like, and a team you like, and fans you like, and their loyalty and love that will only increase if you stay – you have divorced yourself from reality.
I am sure some people who have left good environments for more money have made the right choice. I would’ve thought CC Sabathia would have said so, and then suddenly he’s talking about taking the opportunity to opt-out of the rest of the deal he hesitatingly signed with the Yankees two winters ago. Sometimes the money is so much more that you have to go even if you are not going to be as happy. But anecdotally, every time I’ve changed jobs and money was even just the second most significant factor, it has led to unhappiness. 
If I asked you tomorrow to take a 20% pay cut but guaranteed that you would continue to be as happy with your job as you are now, and the money would cover you and your family practically forever, and that your action would make you more popular at work than you are now, you might very well say yes. You might very well say yes even if your pay is $30,000 and you only like the job a little bit. Logic would suggest that as the actual salary figure increases towards the $25,000,000-to-$30,000,000 range, it would be easier to bite the bullet on the 20% and invest it in happiness and satisfaction.
Reality suggests it’s quite the opposite. And we can debate for days how much of that is the result of the madness of modern society, or the inherent insecurity of mankind, or just greed. But it’s true nonetheless. And it will take an exceptional human being to rise above the pattern and stake a course for himself and say “You think I’m going to leave this? For 20 percent? Are you nuts? Just because you can make more money elsewhere doesn’t mean you should, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean you have to.”
I always had the impression Albert Pujols was an exceptional human being.
We’ll see.
Are the Cardinals a major market team?
MLB has never issued any guidance as to what it considers big or small.
Here is one I cobbled together for myself, based on the early information from the 2010 Census and other sources. The numbers represent “Metropolitan Areas” and that’s open to wild manipulation, but these are pretty conservative (Boston’s number had to be inflated to include Providence, 1.6 million, and Hartford, 1.2 million)
01 New York               19,171,091
02 New York               19,171,091
03 Los Angeles           12,981,199
04 Los Angeles           12,981,199
05 Chicago                   9,645,498
06 Chicago                   9,645,498
07 Boston                    7,432,655
08 Texas (D/FtW)         6,594,145
09 Houston                  6,008,273
10 Philadelphia             5,996,008
11 Florida (Miami)         5,592,350
12 Washington             5,574,546
13 Toronto                   5,623,450
14 Atlanta                    5,564,840
15 Arizona (Phx)          4,480,865
16 Detroit                    4,383,093
17 SF-Oakland            4,375,470
18 SF-Oakland            4,375,470
19 Seattle                   3,459,059
20 Minnesota              3,302,016
21 San Diego              3,088,312
22 St.Louis                  2,839,292
23 Tampa Bay             2,764,537
24 Baltimore                2,704,060
25 Colorado                 2,604,006
26 Pittsburgh               2,354,523
27 Cincinnati               2,185,149
28 Cleveland               2,091,286
29 Kansas City            2,067,585
30 Milwaukee              1,559,667
By almost any measure here – top 50% versus bottom 50%, sheer numbers, St. Louis is a small market. You will notice Houston is clearly not, even though for years it has pretended to be. Data involving cities not on this list is by itself fascinating. The two Texas markets have grown by more than a quarter since 2000, and neither of them includes the 2,000,000 people in and around San Antonio, and another 1.7 million around Austin and Round Rock. The San Antonio, Sacramento, and Orlando “markets” are now all just about the size of Cleveland. Portland would fit right between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. 
And if you could perfectly place a franchise somewhere in Virginia where people in Richmond and people in Newport News could all think of it as theirs, it would have a market to draw from of 2,912,685 – big enough that in theory the Cardinals could think about moving there.




    I agree with your analysis, Keith, wholeheartedly. I would rather make less money and be happy, than make a mint and gain an ulcer to keep it company. But then I always kind of figured you weren’t all about the money anyway. 🙂 By the way, yes – for some people money is an addiction, and greed becomes all-consuming. Look at some of the corporate heads out there. Some get so caught up with the collection of money that they don’t enjoy life, because they have that nagging feeling of greed that tells them they need more, MORE MORE!! I don’t have that bitter voice living inside my head, and my guess is you don’t either. I’m grateful for that – on both counts.

  2. catscards

    Great analysis, Keith. Given the fact that no one really knows what the offers/counteroffers were, I hesitate to take sides — but if the reported offer is true, I am disappointed in Albert. Like you, I thought that he was both an exceptional ball player and an exceptional human being. I hope to be proven right on both counts.


    Pujols and the Cardinals may have an under the table deal going on. Maybe they are purposefully NOT agreeing on a contract. That way, if the Cardinals are not in the race for the post season at the trade deadline, Pujols could be traded for prospects (and you could get a lot of talent in trade for Pujols). If they are in the race, then Pujols invokes his no trade clause and stays in St. Louis. Either way after the season Pujols would re-sign with the Cardinals as a free agent.


    Spot on analysis and though I don’t perceive Pujols as having a huge ego, I think that is what is driving his negotiation. It’s not about the money, it’s about how he should be looked at in MLB and his peers. Cliff Lee was just the opposite…..took less money to play where he is comfortable and where he feels he can be happy.

  5. pylon

    I wrote a 2 part article on my blog ( about salary negotiations in general, but using Pujols as an example of how to do the work.

    In the end, it’s not about sentiment or “what he deserves.” It’s about the value he brings to the team and how much of that they should be willing to pay.

    If his worth in revenue is $100M, and he wants to be paid $300M, it would be insane to do so. On the other hand, if he was worth $300M, and the team wanted him to take $100M, it would be equally inequitable.

    None of us, I suspect, have access to the data to answer that question. But both sides in the negotiation do, and should be using that to reach a deal. Unless one side thinks they can create more value and therefore “win” without the other side. And without being in the room, it’s hard to know which side that might be.


    As a video editor for 30 years ( www. ) and a FOK I decided to create a KO / Yankees music video for you for your private use and enjoyment. It is a token of appreciation for what you do. I was layed off and you provided both entertainment & inspiration during one of the most difficult years of my life( mom died, pet died and dad developed dementia). I would like to send you a DVD (Blu ray or regular). Please contact me at I think you will enjoy it! Please check out my web site if you have any qualms about this gift. It represents the kind of work I do and my “kosherness”.
    Tom Daigon
    Avid DS / FCP/After Effects Editor


    Great commentary, Keith– your observations are spot on. As a resident of the St. Louis area, I would hate to see Albert go elsewhere. Perhaps the best part of Pujols not having signed a contract is the incentive he will now have to play exceptionally well so that he can shop himself around to other teams at the end of the season. This could be a very good year for the Cardinals, indeed.


    “And if you could perfectly place a franchise somewhere in Virginia . . . it would have a market . . . big enough that in theory the Cardinals could think about moving there.” Bite your tongue! As a resident of St. Louis I’ve heard non-stop coverage on the radio and local news outlets for weeks. I no longer know what to believe, but it doesn’t seem to be an acrimonious negotiation. As others have commented, I’ve been of the opinion that Pujols is less concerned with “whose is bigger” and more concerned with being happy, doing good works, and winning championships. I’m quite puzzled at why he’s insisting on a ten year contract (if he really is). I’d love to see him committed to the Red Birds for the next 10 years, but who knows if he has 10 years left in him. As for the dollars, if the reported figures are accurate, what measure of security and what charitable work can he do with $300 million that he can’t do with $200 million? And if he’s tying up $30 million a year in a small market, what does that leave to sign other players that can help the team get that next championship? I’ve never thought of Albert as one of the knuckleheads of sports, but now I don’t know what to think.

  9. mantlewasarockstar

    Because Pujols’ ego and lack of humility want him to be paid more than A-Rod. Period. The same way that Jeter could not deal with being paid equal or less than AJ Burnett.

  10. tschlak

    I wouldn’t put much stock in what the guys on MLBN are saying on-air. I mean, I love watching Hot Stove as much as the next guy, but they’re soaking in testosterone sitting on the set all day and love to talk big sometimes.

    You’re going to tell me Harold would have felt dissed had he been in Albert’s position and offered a comparable salary increase to finish out his career in Seattle? Please.

    As a Cubs fan, I want Albert to get every penny he can to lock up all that money in St. Louis so they can’t spend big on anyone else for a decade! If not, then he can come to Chicago. 🙂

  11. johnmeister

    Finally a liberal standing up for the Corporation. After all when has a MLB team ever lied about their financial affairs and cried wolf about how much money they are losing. If you can’t take an MLB team at their face value that an extra $5 million will bankrupt them, then who can you trust? After all, they’ve always been so forthright and willing to open their books…

    Thank you Keith for siding with the multimultimulti-millionaire owner against the multimillionaire player. Picking a side in this battle was a good use of your time!


    Additional notes:
    1. I wonder what kind of negotiating strategy Keith used when he signed megabucks $7.5 mill/year from the “small-market” MSNBC. That made him the largest paid cable anchor. And he was being wooed by other stations at the time. Does his contract make Keith no longer “an exceptional human being?”

    2. So why is Keith using population numbers to push their small market status in our face? Isn’t the real question whether they can afford to pay Pujols? According to Forbes, their market is valued at $196 million. They are #8 most valuable team in baseball. They sold $94 million in tickets and filled over 80% of their seats. Since this mid-sized market (according to Forbes, not Keith) team consistently draws 3 million a year and has no competition from Kansas City in the near future, they can probably afford to sign Albert. Before you cry poverty on the owner’s behalf, consider the team he bought for $150 million is now valued at $488 including a new stadium. That’s 15% return annually in the past 15 years. Not exactly chump change growth in a recession.

  12. Joe P.

    Great analysis, Mr. O. For all the reasons you state I think that Albert should take the deal. But I also think that Albert should take the deal for the additional reason that it is probably the best deal that he is going to see.

    A ten year deal to a player that is already 31 years old has to give pause to even the wealthiest of general managers in this league. Those last three, four, five, perhaps even six years could be excruciating as his body begins to deteriorate (some might say it has already begun to do so) and his skills begin to decline.

    Do the Yankees want that deal, with an all-star quality player already at first, and a monumental contract for A.Rod already on the books?

    Do the BoSox want that deal with another all star quality palyer already at first?

    Do the Cubs want that deal after all the pain the they have dealt with with the Soriano deal?

    The list of suitors willing an able to write that check is going to be very short.

    Take the deal Albert, it may be the best you’re going to get!


    As a video editor for 30 years ( www. ) and a FOK I decided to create a KO / Yankees music video for you for your private use and enjoyment. It is a token of appreciation for what you do. I was layed off and you provided both entertainment & inspiration during one of the most difficult years of my life( mom died, pet died and dad developed dementia). I would like to send you a DVD (Blu ray or regular). Please contact me at I think you will enjoy it! Please check out my web site if you have any qualms about this gift. It represents the kind of work I do and my “kosherness”.
    Tom Daigon
    Avid DS / FCP/After Effects Editor


    Your “market size” analysis is seriously flawed. The 366 Metro areas in the US are based on political boundaries, not on markets. For an MLB team, the potential market would consist of people living in a 90- to 120-minute radius. It’s take me weeks to come up with a good table comparing size.

    I suspect St. Louis wouldn’t be at the bottom, though. They’re 4th in average attendance. They obviously have no other MLB teams fighting over the same fans, and they must be easy to get to. Rather than fighting with the Orioles, the Nationals, and the Phillys for fans, wouldn’t it make more sense to relocate to North Carolina, near the junction of I-40 and I-95? You’d have a huge 90-minute market with no local competition, and lots of corporate sponsors at Research Triangle Park.

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