What is Albert Pujols really waiting for?

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Great piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today by Bernie Miklasz wondering what Albert Pujols really means when he says he wants to wait to sign an extension with St. Louis so he can make sure “he’s playing somewhere that’s competitive.”  Bernie’s take: whaddaya mean? What team has been more competitive than St. Louis over the past decade? You got the Yankees, the Red Sox, and that’s kind of it, isn’t it?  St. Louis is certainly in the upper tier of competitiveness, so what kind of commitment does Pujols really want?

Miklasz speculates that it may have to do with whether or not the Cardinals will give Jose Oquendo the managers’ job after Tony La Russa retires because (1) they are close; and (2) nobody was cooler in the 1980s than the play-every-position genius that was Jose Oquendo. OK, that last part is more my thinking than Albert’s, but I’m sure he’d agree.

Anyway, if I’m the Cardinals brass, I’m probably a bit peeved by this. Despite living in a small, relatively depressed city, the Cardinals always put a quality product on the field and do way more to keep the mojo flowing than a lot of teams in much bigger cities.  They’d never get into a public spat with someone as important as Pujols over this, but you gotta have a lot of chutzpah to suggest that the Cardinals, of all teams, have something to prove in the commitment-to-winning department.

And yes, even someone as otherwise as admirable like Pujols is capable of chutzpah.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”