Thursday, February 17, 2011
Albert Pujols reports to Cards camp
ESPN.com news services
JUPITER, Fla. -- When Albert Pujols arrived for St. Louis Cardinals spring training Thursday morning, he pulled his black pickup truck into a parking spot reserved for owners.
Odds are, no one will complain.
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Pujols arrived at 7:35 a.m. for his first formal workout of the 2011 season, which the Cardinals desperately hope will not be his last in St. Louis. He showed up, as expected, one day after he and the team failed to reach an agreement on a new contract by a deadline the three-time MVP imposed.
Pujols will not reopen talks with the Cardinals until after the season. He can become a free agent after the World Series.
"You have to put a deadline ... because you don't want to bring distractions to the ballclub," Pujols said Thursday morning during a 25-minute interview session outside the Cardinals' clubhouse, before his first formal workout of the spring.
A source close to the negotiations told ESPN's Karl Ravech the biggest issue is not the number of years, but the amount of money the Cardinals offered. St. Louis' offer would place Pujols in baseball's top 10 in salary, but not in the top five in average annual salary, the source said.
"We felt very good about the offer we made," general manager John Mozeliak said.
It is believed Pujols is seeking something in the neighborhood of the 10-year, $275 million deal that Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees in the fall of 2007.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, citing unnamed sources, reported Wednesday that the Cardinals' initial offer was at more than $200 million and spread over nine or 10 seasons. Once that offer was turned down, other proposals apparently even included an equity stake in the franchise.
Sources have previously told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that Pujols, who has the right to veto any trade, will not accept any trade going forward.
Albert Pujols reported to spring training Thursday and said his goal still is "to be a Cardinal forever."
He half-seriously asked for some help when one large box filled with bats fell out of the driver's-side back door of his tricked-out truck, then loaded his arms with his gear and made the short walk inside. A few teammates had already showed up for work, and Pujols' Thursday arrival was no surprise to the team.
Also not a surprise: That Wednesday came and went with no deal.
"Not disappointed," Pujols said. "It's negotiations. It happens. Two sides didn't get together and get an agreement and that's the way it goes. It's negotiations. You can't get disappointed. You know why? Because I still have another chance after the season and maybe we'll get something done then."
Manager Tony La Russa was understandably excited to see Pujols back with the club.
"Albert will do things the right way," La Russa said. "That's what's so much fun about having him."
La Russa said he didn't have much of a reaction one way or another when Wednesday's noon deadline came and went without a new deal for his first baseman.
"I'm so single-minded," La Russa said. "There's not a lot that goes in my coconut. Nothing else gets in there. I'm just looking forward to having him here."
Pujols doesn't want his status to become a circus and teammates aren't willing to let it become a distraction, either. They simply want to see their first baseman again, and start the process of getting ready for another year.
"I don't think it's changed for anybody in here," Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "Everybody's excited to get going. Albert's going to take care of himself. He's going to be here and doing what he's always done. I don't see why anything would be different."
La Russa said in recent days that he believes Pujols and agent Dan Lozano were getting pressure to "set the bar" on the new deal from the players' association, a stance the union denied.
Pujols said neither he nor Lozano had been pressured by anyone, and said only five people knew the details of the talks: himself, his wife, Lozano, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, and Cardinals chairman William DeWitt Jr.
When -- and if -- talks resume, it's unclear if St. Louis will increase its offer to Pujols' liking.
The Cardinals would not reveal their offer, though it was believed to be somewhere around $200 million for eight years, possibly with an opportunity for Pujols to obtain an ownership stake in the franchise once his playing days are complete.
Pujols laughed off the speculation.
"You guys don't have any clue," Pujols said. "You guys are way off on the numbers that you are throwing out there."
There are plenty of big numbers not in dispute.
Pujols will make $16 million this season in his contract's final year, with $4 million of the money deferred with no interest. A nine-time All-Star, Pujols is the only player in major league history to hit 30 or more home runs each of his first 10 seasons -- all with the Cardinals, the franchise he's often said he wants to remain with for the rest of his career, a stance he reiterated Thursday.
Pujols' Decade of Dominance
How much has Albert Pujols meant to the St. Louis Cardinals? The Stats & Info Blog says the case can be made that Pujols had the best first 10 seasons in baseball history. Blog
Pujols has a .331 career batting average and averaged 41 homers and 123 RBIs. He's also won six Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves. Last year he batted .312 with 42 homers and 118 RBIs and finished second in MVP balloting.
"An iconic player," Mozeliak said Wednesday.
The Cardinals will have a payroll of between $100 million and $110 million this season, and say they can't go into the huge-money ranges like some of baseball's biggest spenders like the Yankees and Red Sox -- two clubs that would figure to have interest in Pujols once he hits the free-agent market. Others are already getting mentioned, like the Rangers, Cubs and Angels.
"What do I want? Hey, I want to be a Cardinal forever," Pujols said. "That's my goal."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.