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: Mike Trout as recognizable to Americans as NBA’s Kenneth Faried

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On Monday, the Washington Post cited Q Scores, a firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, with regard to Angels outfielder Mike Trout. According to Q Scores, Trout is as recognized to Americans as NBA forward Kenneth Faried, who has spent seven seasons with the Denver Nuggets and is now a reserve with the Brooklyn Nets. Trout’s score was 22, which means just over one in five Americans know who he is.

We have talked here at various times about Trout’s lack of marketability. He has expressed zero interest in being marketed as the face of baseball. Additionally, based on the nature of the sport, it’s harder for baseball to aggressively market its stars since star players don’t impact teams the same way they do in other sports. LeBron James, for example, carries whatever team he’s on to the NBA Finals. James has appeared in the NBA Finals every year dating back to 2011. Trout, despite being far and away the best active player in baseball and one of the best players of all time, has only reached the postseason once, in 2014 when his Angels were swept in the ALDS by the Royals. Trout can’t carry his team to the playoffs and his team hasn’t helped him any in getting there on a regular basis.

Baseball is also more of a regional sport. Fans follow their local team, of course, and don’t really venture beyond that even though games are broadcast nationally throughout the week. The NFL schedule is much shorter and occurs once a week, so fans put aside time to watch not just their favorite team’s game, but other games of interest as well. A June game between the subpar White Sox and Tigers doesn’t have much appeal to it since it’s one of 162 games for both teams, and both teams will play again later in the season. Comparatively, a game between the Bears and Lions has more intrigue since they only play twice a year.

It’s kind of a shame for baseball that Trout isn’t bigger than he is because he is a once-in-a-generation talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, Trout is so good that he’s still underrated. He’s on pace to have one of the greatest seasons of all-time, going by Wins Above Replacement. Despite that, he’s anything but a lock to win the MVP Award at season’s end because the narratives around other players, like Mookie Betts, are more compelling.

Trout’s marketability is an issue that isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon. Trout is who he is and forcing him to ham it up for the cameras would come off as forced and unnatural. Major League Baseball will simply have to hope its other stars, like Betts and Bryce Harper, can help broaden the appeal of the sport.