Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is dominating the headlines this week, and that probably won’t change in the coming weeks and months until some kind of resolution is reached about his expiring contract.
SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported earlier today that there is “virtually no chance” of Pujols and the Cards finding a middle ground on an extension before the slugger arrives at spring training next Wednesday, February 16. Now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com is reporting that Pujols has no plans to address the media on his day of arrival either.
That’s Albert’s prerogative, just as it’s his prerogative to seek out as much money as he can possibly find either from the Cardinals this spring or as a free agent next winter. But Pujols set that mid-February deadline two months ago because he wanted to “avoid distractions” while preparing for the 2011 season, and that simply isn’t going to happen.
Cardinals camp will be flooded with reporters on February 16 and they will all want to ask Pujols about his contract status. How many times can one guy respond “no comment” before a chair goes flying?
Even if Pujols makes it through that day without getting frustrated by the throngs of media members who want a sound byte from baseball’s best hitter, the rest of the spring is not going to be a breeze and the regular season will probably be even worse. Reporters who cover road teams are going to ask him about his contract status after every single game and a packaged response may only work for so long.
Albert can probably handle it. The Cardinals’ media relations department will do a fine job of blocking potential problems and keeping things well mannered, but Pujols will soon come to realize that his 2011 spring and summer won’t be distraction-free if he is indeed an impending free agent.
For a guy who likes to keep things close to the vest, this will all be strange territory.