Cards’ strategy in Pujols talks was odd, maybe even insulting

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It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the Angels blew away the competition with their 10-year, $254 million contract offer to Albert Pujols, but it’s now being revealed that the Cardinals’ higher-ups made a number of odd decisions in their negotiations for the first baseman and franchise icon.

Like, for instance, offering him a five-year, $130 million contract as a starting point this winter, down from the nine-year, $198 million bid that was made last spring. And refusing to match the Angels’ 10-year personal services contract that will keep Pujols a member of the Anaheim organization in some capacity for at least the next 20 years.

Maybe these were calculated steps by the Cardinals front office. Perhaps they determined at some point this past season that they didn’t want to get locked into a 10-year deal with a 32-year-old first baseman — which, by most analyses, would be a more-than-reasonable business decision. But the shrewdness may have pushed Albert away, giving him all the more self-justification to chase the highest dollar amount.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more:

The marathon left Pujols drained, admittedly emotional and finally resigned to the fact that Angels’ owner Arte Moreno’s long-distance lightning strike offered a greater sense of belonging as well as more dollars.

“It was about the way he made me feel,” Pujols said. “Arte made me feel like he wanted me to be with the Angels forever. He doesn’t want me to be 37 years old and go somewhere else. … It was about the commitment.”

In the end, the Angels outbid the Cardinals by nearly $40 million. And that’s certainly the primary reason Pujols made the decision to leave for southern California. But any chance of the Redbirds getting a hometown discount was likely tarnished early on by the potentially insulting tactics of the St. Louis front office.

Brandon Belt, Jaime Barrios set new modern record with 21-pitch at-bat

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Angels starter Jaime Barrios and Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record with a 21-pitch at-bat in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Anaheim. Belt fell behind 1-2 and mostly kept fouling pitches off. The count ran full on the ninth pitch and Belt would foul off 11 more pitches before finally lining out to right field.

As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle notes, the previous record was set on June 26, 1998 when the Indians’ Bartolo Colon and the Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez battled for 20 pitches. Gutierrez eventually struck out.