Does Pujols’ self-imposed deadline really matter?

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Albert Pujols told the Cardinals a couple of months ago that he wants all negotiations involving a possible contract extension to stop once he arrives at spring training so that he can avoid distractions and focus on getting ready for the start of the regular season. That self-imposed deadline is just three days away and most national baseball reporters are hearing that talks are not going well.

Now comes the question: does that deadline really matter? If the Cardinals don’t strike a deal with baseball’s best hitter by Wednesday, will they no longer be allowed to make offers? Will Albert’s agent, Dan Lozano, screen any and all phone calls from the Cardinals’ front office after February 16?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, for one, thinks the deadline means next to nothing.

Miklasz wrote in his Sunday column titled “What Matters Most To Pujols?” that the Wednesday deadline is “bogus” and that there is “no need to have a 19th nervous breakdown over it.” More from Berine:

If the deadline passes without a contract in No. 5’s hands, there’s no legitimate reason to assume it means the likely ending of the Pujols-Cardinals union. It doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. It doesn’t mean Pujols is going to bolt as a free agent after the season and jump to the enemy Chicago Cubs.

This spring-training deadline is merely the first checkpoint.

That’s all. Nothing more.

Miklasz makes a great point. Pujols has, time and time again, expressed a desire to remain in St. Louis for the rest of his career. He has a charitable foundation there, a restaurant, a couple of kids in school, and his wife’s family is from nearby Kansas City. If the Cardinals give him what he wants near the end of spring training, or even during the regular season, what’s to say he doesn’t accept?

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.

Manny Machado teaches us to never give up

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The Rays beat the Orioles last night, but the play of the game belonged to an Oriole defender.

Evan Longoria was batting and he chopped a ball foul down the third base line. At least it started out foul. As we all know, however, it doesn’t matter where the ball starts, it matters where it is when it crosses the bag.

Manny Machado knows this and didn’t give up on the ball despite it starting several feet in foul territory. He watched it come back, stayed with it and threw out Longoria who, unlike Machado, did give up on it, assuming he’d merely get a strike and another hack. Watch:

Longoria would get Machado back, however, fielding a ball Machado smoked to third base in the ninth inning, recording the second to last out of the game.