Pujols releases statement on failed negotiations

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Unless you were down in a mine all day (do mines get broadband?), you probably heard that the Cardinals failed to reach a contract extension with Albert Pujols before the slugger’s self-imposed Wednesday deadline.

Different numbers have been popping up everywhere since talks were called off at noon, detailing in different tones how far apart the two sides might have been. Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Cardinals offered a salary of greater than $200 million over a nine- or ten-year frame. ESPN’s Buster Olney says the Cardinals low-balled Pujols with something worth $19-$21 million annually and wouldn’t go as long as ten seasons.

We may never get to the bottom of the Cardinals’ actual offer.

Whatever it was — as low as Olney is reporting or a bit rosier like Strauss says — it hasn’t completely offended Pujols. He released a statement to the press late this evening, explaining that he hopes “to revisit those talks” with John Mozeliak and Co. after the season and that he has the “utmost respect” for all members of the Cardinals’ front office and ownership group. To Cardinals fans, Albert said this:

I also would like to take this opportunity to reassure the Cardinal Nation, that my effort both on and off the field will never change. I am devoted to giving 100 percent on the field, every single day, just as I have done the last 10 years. We’re all working together toward a common goal and that is to win a World Championship for the City of St. Louis. The last thing anyone in this clubhouse needs to worry about, is what’s going to happen to me after the season. Let’s focus on winning in 2011 and prepare each day to accomplish our goals as a team. I’m feeling strong, healthy and excited to be at Spring Training in what I hope to be the start of a World Championship season. I can’t wait to get started and God bless.

Yes, this is a tactic. Pujols doesn’t want to be bogged down with questions about the negotiations or his impending free agency this season, and especially not during spring training. He’s undoubtedly hoping that this press release will provide the media with enough of a quote sheet on the matter and that they’ll focus on other stories in Cardinals camp over the next month-plus.

It’s a tactic, but the words in the statement should be comforting to St. Louis fans. Or at least prevent them from completely blaming Albert for the failed talks when he first takes the plate at Busch Stadium this year.

Pujols wants to focus on winning now and will accept competitive bids from the DeWitts next winter. That’s all that “Cardinal Nation” can ask for at the moment from baseball’s best hitter.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”