You’ve all heard the details by now.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols will make $16 million this season via a club option. It’s a bargain rate, but this is also his last year under contract with the club and he will become a free agent if he is not locked up by next winter.
The slugger has informed the St. Louis front office that he doesn’t want negotiations to extend into the 2011 regular season because he thinks it could become a distraction.
In other words, the clock is ticking.
Earlier this winter the Cardinals expressed a desire to keep their negotiations with Pujols and his representatives out of the media. They’ve either done a good job of that thus far or there is nothing go on.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com caught up with Cardinals CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. on Wednesday and got every packaged response in the book when he asked about the Pujols extension talks.
“We’ve got time between now and then to get things done,” DeWitt said. “I’m hopeful. But these are big deals, and we’ll make every effort to get it accomplished.
Spring training is a long period of time — six weeks. Whether it’s reporting date, or a week after, I don’t view it as, ‘If it’s not done by this day, then . . .’ I don’t see a specific day.
We’re not that far along.”
The Cardinals almost certainly know where they stand with Pujols and his representatives. Unless the two sides have simply been exchanging pleasantries for the past couple of months, it seems likely that contract numbers have at least been thrown around. Now it’s all about finding a middle ground, and they have about 10 weeks to accomplish that feat.
On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.
The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.