Wife of Albert Pujols tells radio show: “the city of St. Louis has absolutely been deceived”

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“I understand you’re talking to us, then one TV station, and that’s about it,” is how Sandi Brown, morning show host at 99.1 Joy FM in St. Louis, opened her conversation Monday with Deidre Pujols, the wife of new Angels first baseman Albert Pujols.

“This is the moment of truth for us,” Deidre replied. “Four days have passed and most people are probably sick of hearing our name by now, but I’m ready to let people have our side of what has happened and be able to make better judgements.”

Before we delve into the topics discussed during the 39-minute interview, some background information is necessary. Joy FM is a Christian music radio station based in a western suburb of St. Louis that debuted this past July in place of “Classic 99,” a classical music offering that had been on the air for more than six decades. Joy FM recieved funding and pledges, during its inception, from the Pujols family and from former Cardinals pitcher Andy Benes.

Sandi Brown, the interviewer, is friends with Deidre Pujols, the interviewee. The chat opened with a prayer.

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Albert Pujols signed a 10-year, $254 million pact with the Angels at last week’s Winter Meetings in Dallas and was introduced as the club’s new first baseman at a kind of hybrid pep rally and press conference Saturday in Anaheim attended by over 4,000 fans. The deal also includes a 10-year personal services contract that will keep Pujols a member of the Angels organization in some capacity long after his playing days are through.

Pujols often claimed, near the end of his tenure in St. Louis, that he wanted to remain a “Cardinal for life,” in the ilk of the legendary Stan Musial. To hear his wife Deidre tell it during Monday’s interview, that claim was wholly accurate. Pujols did want to return to St. Louis this offseason. But then his mindset changed.

In a failed reading of the marketplace for the 31-year-old slugger, the Cardinals put forth a five-year, $130 million proposal earlier this winter. Some might call that part of doing business — every negotiation starts somewhere, and offers can be improved — but it struck the wrong chord in the Pujols household.

“When you have somebody say, ‘we want you to be a Cardinal for life,’ and then only offer you a five-year deal, it kind of confused us,” said Deidre, calling the offer an “insult.”

The Cardinals eventually improved their package, all the way up to 10 years and $210 million, but $30 million of that would have been deferred with no interest. In the Angels’ $254 million deal, nothing is deferred.

“I’m going to tell you what, listeners especially,” said Deidre, “had that offer been given to us with a guarantee (i.e. no deferred money), we would have a Cardinal on our bat.”

Deidre then hinted that the lack of a post-baseball commitment from the Cardinals also rubbed Albert the wrong way. He wasn’t offered a personal services contract like the one Angels owner Arte Moreno gave.

“Albert and I never, not one time ever, made plans to leave this city,” said Deidre. “We had no reason, not one reason, to want to leave. … People were deceived by the numbers.”

The rest of the interview centred largely around Mrs. Pujols’ faith and upbringing in Kansas City, and the both harsh and friendly comments she’s received from St. Louisans since the decision was announced on Thursday. But the main intention of the lengthy Monday morning discussion was to relay the message that Albert did not chase the Angels’ $254 million offer because of greed or money lust. Rather, it was about the Angels’ willingness to make a long-term commitment and the Cardinals’ reluctance to match that.

“It’s just like God,” Deidre told Brown near the end of the chat, “to put us on a team called the Angels.”

Rob Manfred is prepared to implement a pitch clock unilaterally for 2018

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Rob Manfred has long been on record wanting to speed up the pace of play in baseball and, to that end, last year proposed a 20-second pitch clock. Pursuant to baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, he could not implement that unilaterally last year. However if, one year after a proposed rules change, no agreement can be reached with the union, he has the power to impose the originally-proposed change unilaterally.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic says today that he is prepared to do just that — imposing that pitch clock and a rule limiting mound visits — for the 2018 season. He further says that the players might very well allow him to do that, despite the fact that they and Manfred are currently negotiating an agreed set of rule changes.

Why? Because, Rosenthal says, if they step aside and let Manfred do it by himself and the rules changes prove unpopular, he’ll take the blame for it:

If enough players oppose the changes, they could absolve themselves of responsibility and allow Manfred to force the issue by introducing the two key elements of MLB’s plan: a 20-second pitch clock and reduction in mound visits. The onus then would be on Manfred to deal with any public fallout and unintended consequences the new rules might trigger.

I’m not sure, based on the story itself, if that’s just Rosenthal’s speculation or if it’s actually a potential union strategy to do nothing and let Manfred own the rules changes. If it’s the latter, though, it’s a monumentally stupid strategy. For a few reasons.

The first and biggest reason is that it is not a union’s job to play public relations games. It’s a union’s job to make workplace conditions as good as possible for its membership via bargaining. Rob Manfred is required to engage with the union on these rules changes for a limited time and is doing so, apparently in good faith. The union, while not possessing great leverage here, has at least some ability to put its two cents in on a rule that impacts all of its members and could, conceivably, make the rules a bit better for them. Barring that, they could at least attempt to obtain some sort of concession in another area in order to get their agreement to the rule. Blowing the chance to have input on work rules because of a chance to win a public relations fight is an abdication of responsibility for a labor union.

Second: there is not going to be any sort of public relations win for the union regardless of what happens. Indeed, to even think there could be one is to ignore what has happened with every rules change in baseball history and how they have played with the public.

No matter how much some people complain about a change in baseball — and some people love to complain — most folks eventually get used them. The DH rule just celebrated its 50th anniversary. People moan, but it’s just part of life. Same with interleague play and divisional realignment and expanded playoffs and no-pitch intentional walks and the takeout slide rules and everything else. The complaints about such things are loud, but they’re not deeply felt or widely felt by any but a handful of self-proclaimed traditionalists. The game chugs on and most people get used to it without there ever being the kind of P.R. fallout that puts egg on the league’s face or which puts the players in some better light. If the pitch clock rule is imposed, people will complain a lot and lot of ink will be spilled about it, but it won’t do anything to substantially harm the league let alone help the players.

That speaks to a larger historical lesson about public relations and players, of course: they’re almost always going to be seen as the bad guys by fans, no matter what they do.

Owners abused their power for a century and fans didn’t care. Starting in the 1960s, when the players finally began to effectively assert their leverage, the players were cast as greedy mercenaries. An owner gives out a foolishly large contract and the player is blamed for taking it. The owners band together in an illegal scheme to harm the players’ interest and the owner who orchestrated it is inducted into the Hall of Fame. The DH rule gets imposed and players who excel as designated hitters are viewed poorly by the writers and the public when it comes time to consider their Hall of Fame case. A new rule gets implemented to deal with slides and it’s not “The Rob Manfred slide rule” it’s “The Chase Utley Rule.” The players are the visible ones. They bear the brunt of just about anything that happens.

Which is to say, if the pitch clock creates some weird situations or controversies, the players involved in those situations and controversies are going to be the ones to take the blame. Just imagine a Dodgers-Giants game that turns on some weirdness involving Madison Bumgarner taking too long to deliver a pitch to Yasiel Puig, forcing in the walkoff run. Imagine that both Bumgarner and Puig saying the other was to blame. Imagine that the umpires messed up the application of the rule. You think Rob Manfred is going to catch hell for it as opposed to the players and the umpires involved? Hell no. Giants fans will yell that Puig did something that should’ve caused the clock to be reset. Dodgers fans will blame Bumgarner for taking too long. It’ll dominate the news for a couple of days but it won’t be the league and its owners taking crap for it.

Against that backdrop, why in the heck would the union try to win some P.R. battle? Screw the P.R. battle. Union leadership — including Tony Clark and the player reps — should negotiate for the best rules possible for the players they represent and let the public relations chips fall where they may.

Will they do that? Based on how the last few management-labor battles have gone, I don’t have a lot of confidence. In recent years the union has seemed far more focused on relatively short term and picayune concerns while trying not to look like the bad guys to fans. Meanwhile, the meat and potatoes labor issues which sometimes require a union to take unpopular stances in the long term, big picture interests of the players have been dominated by the owners. Ask the free agents who can’t find a team because the luxury tax is far lower, compared to revenues, now than it was 15 years ago and is serving as a defacto salary cap. Ask the guys who are being lowballed because of the qualifying offer.

It appears as though we’ll have a pitch clock in 2018 one way or another. The players need to decide pretty quickly if they’re going to have some say in that process or if they’re going to allow themselves to be marginalized in the management of the game even more than they already have been.