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.

Players are waking up and getting ready to fight

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There’s this idea out there that the owners have been eating the players’ lunch at the bargaining table in recent years because the players are, generally, rich and happy and maybe don’t care about a lot of the stuff the previous couple of generations of players did. There is probably some degree of truth to that. The difference between a good deal and a bad deal, in both collective bargaining and on the free agent market, is way less dire now than it used to be and thus the urgency may not have been there over the past several years the way it was in 1981 or 1994.

But it goes too far to say that such a mindset is universal among players. Or that it’s a mindset which, even among those who hold it, will always persist. Players may not have been as vigilant about labor matters over the past several years as they used to be, but they’re not idiots and, at some point, the owners are gonna push ’em too far and they’ll respond.

As we find ourselves in the second straight offseason in which teams simply don’t seem all too keen on signing free agents, it’s starting to happen already.

Earlier this week Dallas Keuchel tweeted out some things critical of the current market and teams’ approach to it (and took another swipe today). This afternoon Giants third baseman Evan Longoria chimed in on Instagram, posting a picture of Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and saying the following:

We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.

Most of that is common sense, the sort of which we’ve been arguing for around here for some time. Fans should care about good players and winning baseball games, not whether or not their front office can get a great bargain for its own sake. It may be interesting to talk about payroll and salaries and wins/$, but the point of baseball is to win, right? When so many teams seem rather uninterested in that, it’s a problem that all of the interesting analytical insights can’t really make up for.

The second part is worth keeping your eyes on. Maybe players have not been on a war footing the likes of which their predecessors were in the 1970s through the 1990s, but it doesn’t mean they won’t get back there if pushed. As is abundantly clear, the owners are pushing. Salaries are dropping in both an absolute sense and, especially, compared to baseball’s revenues. Players are getting a smaller piece of the pie than they have in a while and ownership seems quite pleased to see that continue.

If players are saying stuff like this publicly, it means that players are talking about it amongst themselves privately. The last two years have likely served as quite a wakeup call for them, and they seem to be waking up. Evan Longoria is. Dallas Keuchel is. So are some others. If current trends continue, more and more will wake up.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2021 season. What happens over the rest of this offseason and the next two is going to determine the mood of the players. The mood of the players, in turn, is going to dictate the tenor of negotiations. If they were to begin right now, those negotiations would be very, very rocky.