Is A-Rod’s contract a blueprint for an Albert Pujols deal?

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes today about how the Yankees dealt with Alex Rodriguez’s last contract. It could be instructive, Goold notes, given how the Cardinals are now poised to give out the biggest contract in the game’s history.

The story is interesting because it touches on something that has always troubled me: if teams can’t give players bonuses for actual performance benchmarks like 100 RBI or 40 home runs, why can the Yankees give A-Rod bonuses for hitting his 660th home run, for example?  The answer is that MLB approved the language in A-Rod’s deal specially.  It doesn’t say how those clauses are distinguishable from the banned ones, of course. Makes it seem like the Yankees and A-Rod were maybe given special treatment. Which would not surprise me at all.

As for Pujols, I’m not sure how the A-Rod example could come into play.  The milestone game has been more or less ruined as a result of steroids souring everyone on Bonds, A-Rod and their friends in the PED-using community. All-Star appearance bonuses and the like aren’t going to cut it because Pujols will get support for that sort of thing even after he’s ceased to be a force.

It seems like the Cardinals will just have to write Pujols giant checks.

Athletics tie for first place in AL West

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The Athletics are tied for first place in the AL West for the first time since Opening Day. They took the first of a three-game series against the Astros on Friday with a wild (and controversial) overturned replay call in the ninth and Matt Olson‘s decisive walk-off home run in the 10th — the first of his career to date — then returned on Saturday and bested the Astros 7-1 to take first place.

Saturday’s win was less of a nail-biter than Friday’s had been, but its rewards were just as sweet. Trevor Cahill led the A’s through the first seven innings of one-hit, seven-strikeout ball, backed by seven runs on five RBI doubles from Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty and Josh Phegley. All told, the four players struck eight doubles to tie the franchise single-game record.

The Astros, meanwhile, were stymied by both Cahill and the A’s bullpen through the first eight innings of the game. Following Cahill’s seven shutout innings, Jeurys Familia took the ball in the eighth and blanked the Astros to preserve the seven-run lead. Yusmeiro Petit wasn’t quite so lucky: with one out in the top of the ninth, he pitched to a full count against Tony Kemp, then saw his 90.1-MPH fastball returned to right field for a home run. That was the first and last time the Astros crossed home plate, however, as Kyle Tucker popped out to third base and Alex Bregman cemented the loss with a fly ball to right.

Entering Saturday’s game, the Astros had not been out of first place since June 13, when they played second fiddle to the now third-place Mariners. They’ll share first-place honors with the Athletics until Sunday’s finale; it’ll take a series sweep for Oakland to take the lead in the division, but they’ve already delivered incredible results over the last two weeks (and it’s worth noting, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart pointed out, that Houston has now lost seven of their last eight games). The A’s climbed out of the no. 3 spot at the start of August and have steadily progressed toward first place ever since, driven by two separate four-win streaks and their two decisive wins this weekend. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also notes that the club has not been in first place in a non-April month since August 25, 2014 — the last year they qualified for the playoffs.