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.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.