How much is enough?Well, Dec. 8 is a day I will never forget. My beloved St. Louis Cardinals failed to sign arguably one of the top five baseball players of all time — Albert Pujols — and let him sign with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent for ten years and $254 million.
By: Don Leighton, Superior Telegram
The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by award-winning writers Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in the Superior Telegram.
Well, Dec. 8 is a day I will never forget.
My beloved St. Louis Cardinals failed to sign arguably one of the top five baseball players of all time — Albert Pujols — and let him sign with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent for ten years and $254 million.
I am not as upset as you might think, but I think back to the days of Stan Musial and long for baseball that was a game and not a business. Oh, for the good old days that today’s generation of fans know nothing about unless they are real students of the game. Excuse me while I get on my soapbox.
During the past few months of this year, the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association could not figure how to divide $9 billion. We are just now emerging from an NBA lockout where the players felt entitled, yes entitled, to more than half of the revenue their sport generates. The NBA season will begin on Christmas and will consist of 62 regular season games, which is 62 too many.
Now Albert has left the best baseball town and fans in America for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles and for millions of dollars more than the Cardinals could offer. To say the least, it has been an interesting year.
The “experts” who need to fill the 24-hour news cycle of “pertinent and must have-information” have said the Cardinals showed Pujols no respect. (An offer of nine years and $200 million is disrespectful?)
“How do you say no to the approximately $50 million more he will make during the next ten years?” they say. “The Angels gave him the ten year contract he was looking for.” “The Cardinals should have locked Pujols up a couple of years ago.”
I totally agree with the last comment. However, the business of baseball has completely taken over the game that used to be played “for the love of the game.”
Loyalty, legacy and historical perspective are no longer important to most professional athletes or to 100 percent of the agents who represent them. Agents receive 4-7 percent of the income generated by the huge multi-year deal contracts signed. Dan Lozano, Pujols’ agent, will earn $8 to $14 million depending on his percentage. Not bad work if you can get it.
Because of Pujols’ move to large-market Los Angeles, he will earn millions more in endorsements, the Angels will sell seasons ticket packages at a feverish pace, advertising and radio revenue will jump dramatically and the large Latino community of Southern California will be energized and spend millions on merchandise and tickets.
A 20-year television agreement with FOX is about to be signed for $3 billion, which provides the Angels the capital to offer a contract of this magnitude. This was a sound business move (there’s the B word again), and it will pay great dividends on and off the field for the Angels. Who can fault them for throwing a king’s ransom at King Albert? Perhaps revenue sharing of all television and radio revenues (not a percentage) needs to be placed in a pot and split equally to allow small market teams like St. Louis, Milwaukee and Minnesota to compete with the large market teams like Los Angeles. Small cannot exist without the big and vice versa.
Cardinal fans and St. Louis will be bitter for a while, but in the end all will be right with the world. The Cardinals now have upwards of $20 million to spend on a shortstop, a left-handed relief pitcher and an outfielder.
I have been a loyal Cardinal fan for more than 50 years. It is not without extreme sadness I write this, but remember it is only a game and the sun will rise in the east. The Cardinals will survive and, even without Pujols, may be better in the long run. He is 31; how long will he be able to put up the numbers to which we are accustomed? The jury will be out for the next ten years.
In June 1946, Alfonso Pasquel of the Mexican League was in Stan Musial’s kitchen in St. Louis. He wasn’t there for dinner but to entice Musial to move south of the border to use his considerable skills to give credibility to the Mexican League.
Musial was making $13,500 at the time, and Pasquel offered him $175,000. Can you imagine what every professional athlete would do today if they were offered 13 times their current salary? Can you say mass exodus?
But Musial turned Pasquel down. Why? Musial was loyal to St. Louis, to the fans and to the organization that gave him his chance to become one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. Perhaps that is one reason he is known as Stan “The Man” Musial.
I don’t know what I would do if offered the same opportunity. I would like to think I’d be loyal to the Cardinals.
It has also been reported that all Musial wanted for Christmas was “for Albert to remain a Cardinal.” Merry Christmas, Stan.
I long for the days when scruples, high morals, honor and ethics were the rule rather than the exception in professional sports. Sadly, those days are gone.
On the official website for the St. Louis Cardinals, there was an entry from a fan. I will paraphrase: “Before going to bed on Wednesday night with the St. Louis and Los Angeles offers in hand, Pujols prayed and asked God for guidance. Apparently God told him to grab the money.”
Apparently money trumps loyalty, legacy and devotion to a city and fan base that created the icon of Albert Pujols. I am hopeful the Brewers and Prince Fielder can agree to terms. I would hate to see all royalty leave the National League Central Division.
It begs the question, “What is most important and how much is enough?”
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