Albert Pujols didn’t speak with reporters after Game 2 loss

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Albert Pujols wasn’t present to answer questions from the media following last night’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers in Game 2 of the World Series. Neither were some other prominent veterans on the team, including Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.

There’s plenty of blame to go around with this snubbing, but naturally the focus from the media this morning is all about Pujols’ early exit from the clubhouse.

Here’s Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com:

It’s unclear how St. Louis will respond after fumbling away a grand chance to take command of this series. Pujols didn’t stick around to address the media after the game, after his botched cutoff of Jon Jay’s throw from center allowed the winning run to advance into scoring position. The lack of accountability was inexcusable from a man who is frequently described as a good teammate — and will soon want to be paid like the greatest player in the game.

In almost every case, answering questions from the media has little to do with whether a team wins or loses its next game. But this was one occasion when Pujols, as a team spokesman, should have accepted the blame for his defensive blunder and reassured those inside and outside the clubhouse that the Cardinals were going to be fine. (There is no doubt Texas leader Michael Young would have done so if the Rangers had lost.)

And Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports:

Part of stardom – perhaps the hardest part – is accountability. Pujols is not accountable to the media. This is not about that. Nor is it about his accountability to fans that may or may not want to know how he spit the bit in a crucial game. Pujols, more than anything, must be accountable to his teammates, those he ostensibly leads. He needs to stand up after losses so Jason Motte and Jon Jay and and Allen Craig and David Freese don’t have to.

Listen, was this a weak showing by the Cardinals’ veterans? Absolutely. It would have been nice for each of them to stick around and say a few words so that someone like Jason Motte isn’t forced to stand there for 30 minutes. In another city like Boston or New York, that just wouldn’t fly. The atmosphere in St. Louis has routinely coddled Pujols over the years, which is one reason why I’m skeptical he would ever seriously consider leaving via free agency if he receives comparable offers this winter. But this whole leadership thing is bit of a stretch. Makes for a great storyline in a series like this, but we won’t be saying a word of it if he goes 4-for-4 with two homers on Saturday night.

I don’t want to just gloss over the Cardinals’ actions, because in a perfect world they should be present, but the media needs to understand that this is something they care about more than the fans do.

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment ‘egregious case of service time manipulation’

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The full quote:

I don’t believe I’ve ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service time manipulation.

We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year — and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later.

Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He’s a major league-ready impact-type player. He has done everything they’ve asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.

Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he’s received from Reds fans. He’s going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB.

We have covered the service time manipulation issue pretty extensively here, so Wolfe’s statement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to an injury, the Blue Jays were going to undeservingly stuff Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — baseball’s No. 1 prospect — at Triple-A for the first two weeks or so of the season. The White Sox were going to do the same with Eloy Jiménez before using their leverage to nudge him into inking an extension. The Braves toyed with Ronald Acuña Jr.’s playing time last year. Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco filed respective grievances against the Cubs and Phillies for service time manipulation several years ago.

Team executives don’t outright admit to gaming a prospect’s service time to gain that extra year of control because that’s how one loses a grievance. They dance around the topic by making a nebulous claim, typically about the player’s defense needing to be worked on at Triple-A. That’s what the Cubs said about Bryant, and it’s what the Jays said about Guerrero. It’s a subjective enough evaluation that it can’t be falsified. It’s why the grievances that have been filed over this have fizzled out and it’s why more and more teams have brazenly joined the service time manipulation bandwagon.

Senzel’s case is, admittedly, a bit more murky. Though he performed well this spring, Scott Schebler has outperformed him, batting .379 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks in roughly 40 trips to the plate. The starting spot in right field is taken by Yasiel Puig and left field is taken by Jesse Winker. Schebler has ostensibly earned the starting job in center. I can’t imagine Wolfe having a compelling case if he were to file a grievance on Senzel’s behalf.

That being said, it is important that agents (and the MLBPA) speak out about this when they can. Senzel’s case may not be open-and-shut, but bringing service time manipulation into the public consciousness will have a lasting impact ahead of the December 2021 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Holding team executives publicly accountable may make them less willing to manipulate their players’ service time going forward, as it may sour what could otherwise be a terrific relationship between team and player. Service time manipulation is an important piece of the labor puzzle and those on the players’ side have to seize whatever they can to potentially gain leverage. Awareness leads to solidarity.