Cards’ strategy in Pujols talks was odd, maybe even insulting

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It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the Angels blew away the competition with their 10-year, $254 million contract offer to Albert Pujols, but it’s now being revealed that the Cardinals’ higher-ups made a number of odd decisions in their negotiations for the first baseman and franchise icon.

Like, for instance, offering him a five-year, $130 million contract as a starting point this winter, down from the nine-year, $198 million bid that was made last spring. And refusing to match the Angels’ 10-year personal services contract that will keep Pujols a member of the Anaheim organization in some capacity for at least the next 20 years.

Maybe these were calculated steps by the Cardinals front office. Perhaps they determined at some point this past season that they didn’t want to get locked into a 10-year deal with a 32-year-old first baseman — which, by most analyses, would be a more-than-reasonable business decision. But the shrewdness may have pushed Albert away, giving him all the more self-justification to chase the highest dollar amount.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more:

The marathon left Pujols drained, admittedly emotional and finally resigned to the fact that Angels’ owner Arte Moreno’s long-distance lightning strike offered a greater sense of belonging as well as more dollars.

“It was about the way he made me feel,” Pujols said. “Arte made me feel like he wanted me to be with the Angels forever. He doesn’t want me to be 37 years old and go somewhere else. … It was about the commitment.”

In the end, the Angels outbid the Cardinals by nearly $40 million. And that’s certainly the primary reason Pujols made the decision to leave for southern California. But any chance of the Redbirds getting a hometown discount was likely tarnished early on by the potentially insulting tactics of the St. Louis front office.

Report: MLB could fine the Angels $2 million for failure to report Tyler Skaggs’ drug use

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T.J. Quinn of ESPN is reporting that Major League Baseball could fine the Los Angeles Angels up to $2 million “if Major League Baseball determines that team employees were told of Tyler Skaggs’ opioid use prior to his July 1 death and didn’t inform the commissioner’s office.”

The fine would be pursuant to the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement which affirmatively requires any team employee who isn’t a player to inform the Commissioner’s Office of “any evidence or reason to believe that a Player … has used, possessed or distributed any substance prohibited” by MLB.

As was reported last weekend, Eric Kay, the Angels Director of Communications, told DEA agents that he and at least one other high-ranking Angels official knew of Skaggs’ opioid use. The Angels have denied any knowledge of Skaggs’ use, and the other then-Angels employee Kay named, current Hall of Fame President Tim Mead deny that he know as well, but Kay’s admission that he knew — he in fact claims he purchased drugs for and did drugs with Skaggs — would, if true, constitute team knowledge. Major League Baseball would, of course, want to make its own determination of whether or not Kay was being truthful when he told DEA agents what his lawyer says he told them.

Which raises the question of why, apart from a strong desire to get in criminal jeopardy for lying to DEA agents, Kay would admit through his lawyer that he lied to DEA agents. Still, the process is the process, so giving MLB a little time here is probably not harming anyone.

As for a $2 million fine? Well, it cuts a number of ways. On the one hand, that’s a lot of money. On the other hand, (a) a man is dead; and (b) $2 million is what the Angels’ DH or center fielder makes in about 11 minutes so how much would such a fine really sting?

On the third hand, my God, what else can be done here? No matter what happened in the case of Skaggs’ death, this is not a situation anyone in either the Commissioner’s Office nor the MLBPA truly contemplated when the JDA was drafted. We live in a world of horrors at times, and by their very nature, horrors involve that which it is not expected and for which there can be no adequate, pre-negotiated remedy. It’s a bad story all around, no matter what happens.

Still, it would be notable for Major League Baseball to fine any team under the “teams must report players they suspect used banned substances” rule. Because, based on what I have heard, knowledge of players who use banned substances — which includes marijuana, cocaine, opioids and other non-PED illegal drugs — and which have not been reported to MLB is both commonplace and considerable.

But that’s a topic for another day. Perhaps tomorrow.