We’ll talk soon about whether it was wise for the Angels to give Albert Pujols a friggin’ quarter of a billion dollars, but for now, let’s look at this from Pujols’ perspective.
As soon as the news hit the wire I saw people — Cardinals fans mostly — starting to slam the man they’ve cheered for the past decade. Watching the tweets flow, I saw the word “greedy” thrown around. I saw people talking about how he would now be hated in St. Louis. I saw him called “Pujol$.” Cut it out, will ya?
This was no betrayal of the Cardinals by Albert Pujols. The Cardinals, as best can be told, never really got much higher than the bids they’ve had out for a few days. Probably ten years. $220 million at best, but some people are saying it was actually less. The Angels came in a good $30-40 million more than the nearest bid. How much of a hometown discount is the guy supposed to give?
The people booing this move on loyalty grounds would all switch jobs for more money in a heartbeat. Every single one of them. Pujols’ move is no different. And to suggest that he owes the Cardinals something greater — after delivering two World Series championships and nearly unprecedented excellence for 11 seasons — is nonsense.
The Angels paid the man. The Cardinals wouldn’t. It’s that simple.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.