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.

Tony Clark: Universal DH ‘gaining momentum’ among players

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Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark met the press late this morning and covered a wide array of topics.

One of them: free agency, which he referred to as being “under attack” based on the slow market for free agents last offseason.

“What the players saw last offseason was that their free-agent rights were under attack on what has been the bedrock of our system,” Clark said. He added that they “have some very difficult decisions to make.” Presumably in the form of grievances and, down the road, a negotiating strategy that seeks to claw back some of the many concessions the union has given owners in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. CBAs, it’s worth noting, that Clark negotiated. We’ve covered that territory in detail in the past.

Of more immediate interest was Clark’s comment that the idea of a universal designated hitter is, among players, “gaining momentum.” Clark says “players are talking about it more than they have in the past.” We’ve talked a lot about that as well.

Given that hating or loving the DH is the closest thing baseball has to a religion, no one’s mind is going to be changed by any of this, but I think, practically speaking, it’s inevitable that the National League will have the DH and I think it happens relatively soon. Perhaps in the next five years. The opposition to it at this point is solely subjective and based on tradition. People like pitchers batting and they like double switches and they like the leagues being different because they, well, like it. If the system were being set up today, however, they’d never have it this way and I think even the DH-haters know that well. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dislike a universal DH, but it does mean that you can’t expect the people who run the game to cater to that preference when it makes little sense for them to do it for their own purposes.

Anyway, enjoy convincing each other in the comments about how the side of that argument you dislike is wrong.