Jason Heyward calls his fit with the Cardinals an “ideal situation”

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Every fan spends a lot of time at the end of each season trying to read the free agent tea leaves. Especially if there’s a great player on their own team who is about to become a free agent. “Will he stay here?” they wonder? “Will he give a hometown discount?” “Money aside, does he like it here? IS HE LOYAL?”

These questions, however understandable, are usually beside the point. The free agent is, more often than not, going to take the biggest offer and play for whoever made it. He will almost always say it’s not about the money, even if it is. He’ll also do his best to say good things about the team and the city he is leaving so as not to upset his former fan base. We all know this dance so well by now that we can recite its steps from memory.

There’s a little dance just before the actual free agency too, and that comes when the player is asked about his thoughts regarding the upcoming bidding.

Often they’ll say something non-committal but positive about the current team. It’s a delicate balance, though, in that if he’s TOO effusive but nonetheless goes someplace else, he’ll open himself to claims of being a mere mercenary. Or worse, a liar. “But you SAID you liked it here and wanted to stay!” the fan will say, likely goaded into greater anger by ownership and their media accomplices into thinking that a player dictates the entire process of free agency and that their offer, though it may never be known, was the best one, only to be spurned by the greedy player.

None of which, necessarily, dictates the stuff Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward just said about his upcoming free agency. But it is worth reminding ourselves of the context when he says it. And here is what he said:

 

And it will remain ideal as long as the Cardinals make him either the best or a close to the best offer. If they don’t, the situation will be different. As is the case with just about every free agent decision there is.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.