Albert Pujols is scheduled to arrive at the Cardinals’ spring training complex on February 16, one week from today. He has asked that all talks involving a contract extension be put to an end by the time he unpacks his things and begins preparing for what could be his final year in St. Louis.
In essence, the Cards have one week to lock up the best hitter in baseball or they will risk losing him to free agency next winter.
The two sides agreed early on to keep details of the negotiations out of the media and that agreement has largely been upheld. But the clock is ticking louder than ever now and reports, whether true or not, are beginning to stream in. First there was Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports saying that the Cardinals had not yet made a formal offer to the slugger. Now SI.com’s Jon Heyman is reporting that there is “virtually no chance” an agreement can be reached by Pujols’ self-imposed deadline.
It’s hard to guess where Brown and Heyman might be getting their information. Perhaps the Cards’ front office is leaking details in the hope of gaining some kind of leverage that, to this point, they have not had. Or maybe Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, is giving out certain information that could potentially help his client.
Whatever the case, Heyman is hearing from someone and from somewhere that the Cardinals and their franchise player are too far apart at the moment to believe that a deal will be struck this spring. And Brown pretty much echoed that idea on Tuesday in his column.
Pujols is thought to be asking for a contract similar to the 10-year, $275 million behemoth that Alex Rodriguez is currently operating under with the Yankees. The St. Louis front office, meanwhile, reportedly wants to keep a deal to six or seven years. That is quite a gap.
Ten days ago Nationals ace Max Scherzer said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. “I’m gonna do it,” Scherzer said.
[Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice] — No, he’s not:
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team’s opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation.
He’s still projected to make it to the opening rotation, taking the hill, most likely, on Thursday April 6 against the Marlins. At least if the schedule doesn’t slip any more.
Scherzer, as you probably know, has a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, which has messed with his preparation and has caused him to alter his grip a bit. As of now Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day nod.
Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.
For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.
So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?
The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.
I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.
Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.
But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.