Cardinals management soon will wrestle with its Albert Pujols issue. In the coming months, the front office will try to negotiate a contract extension to allow the iconic slugger to finish his career where it started.
It won’t be easy – just as the Derek Jeter negotiations aren’t easy for the Yankees.
Jeter, 36, is past his athletic prime. He is coming off a lesser offensive season. His defense has slipped, despite his latest Gold Glove honor.
His value in the open market is debatable. Would another team really pay him top dollar?
By contrast, Pujols is at the height of his productivity. There is no debating his potential free-agent value. He would set new records if he reached the market in 2011.
But here is the common thread with Jeter and Pujols: Their value to their franchise goes well beyond the numbers they put up on the field.
Pujols is larger than life in St. Louis. He is building a Stan Musial-like career for the Cardinals. Fans can’t imagine him playing for any other team.
And so it goes for Jeter, the ultimate Yankee. While his athletic value may be on the wane, he remains the most popular player on a team loaded with superstars.
Can you imagine the outrage in New York City if Jeter moved on to a new team?
“It’s a player negotiation,” Yankees president Randy Levine told reporters in Orlando Wednesday. “Everything he is and who he is gets factored in. But this isn’t a licensing deal or a commercial rights deal. He’s a baseball player.
“But, with that said, you can’t take away from who he is. He brings a lot to the organization and we bring a lot to him.”
Cards management will wrestle with this same dilemma while talking to the Pujols camp. That contract WILL be a licensing deal and a commercial rights deal, to a large extent.
Albert sells tickets. Albert sells merchandise. Albert sells suite leases and party room rentals.
Let’s face it, this franchise is worth a lot more with Albert around. That value is hard to quantify for contract terms, but the Pujols camp will take a stab at it.
Age will catch up with Pujols one day, just as it caught up to Jeter this season. But actuarial tables don’t really apply to special cases like these.
Jeter has earned the opportunity to become a Yankee For Life -- and Albert merits the same distinction here.
MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE
Questions to ponder while waiting for the Missouri basketball team to get its offense out of neutral:
Why do the Miami Heat have to plead for better fan support?
Should Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane pick his marketing opportunities more carefully?
Is Brett Favre's struggle more palatable when a cute woman sings about it?
QUIPS ‘R US
Here is what some of America’s leading sports pundits have been writing:
Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com: “The way things are going for the Bears, I can see them running the table on their schedule, capturing Osama bin Laden and brokering an airport pat-down compromise. A Super Bowl is a given. Bears fans, buy your plane tickets to JerryWorld now -- non-refundable. If you want to win Lotto, hang out with the Bears. If you want to find gold doubloons at the bottom of Lake Michigan, hang out with the Bears. They have become the official NFL sponsor of rabbits' feet, four-leaf clovers and rainbows. The Bears won their seventh game of the season Thursday night. Beat the Miami Dolphins, 16-0. It wasn't so much a game as it was a three-plus hour colonoscopy.”
David Whitley, FanHouse: “The most private person in the world is on a charm offensive. Tiger Woods is on the radio, writing magazine pieces and starting a Twitter account. At this rate, he'll be doing the Tango with his caddie on 'Dancing With The Stars.' Before it comes to that, I'd like to offer a word of advice: Stop. The best way to rehabilitate your image isn't by talking, especially when you have nothing new to say. Woods should be like Mike. No, not his old skirt-chasing mentor with the wagging tongue. Tiger needs to be like M-m-m ... gosh, I can hardly bring myself to type it . . . Michael Vick. The mere fact anyone is being told to emulate that guy shows how far Woods has fallen.”
Kevin Hench, FoxSports.com: “Suspicion has been growing for weeks that Oregon opponents have been faking injuries on defense to slow down the Ducks, but last Saturday left no doubt. Cal defensive lineman Aaron Tipoti proved he’s no drama major with his thoroughly unconvincing performance. He hopped up after a play, seemed fine, glanced to the sideline, then flopped on the ball. 'Feigning' injury would be an overstatement. He didn’t even deign to feign. His pathetic acting has made him a YouTube sensation. The Bears lost 15-13, but if you look at the scores the Ducks have run up this year, losing 15-13 falls into the category of prospering. The poor officials have no way to police this tactic and have to treat every apparent injury as if it’s real. They can’t administer a polygraph or an MRI between plays. So the only 'punishment' is sitting out a play. Until the rule is tweaked — how about being required to sit out the rest of the series? — up-tempo offenses are going to see more and more of the Stella Adler defense.”
Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports: “In a sports world where so much is contrived, marketed and spun, the Colts and the Patriots is as real as it gets. Whether you root for or against either or both of these teams, it’s worth appreciating the uniqueness of this 10-plus year relationship. Sunday will be their 15th meeting in the Manning/Belichick/Brady era. They’ve played 11 regular-season games, which have often gone down in November amid great records and great hype. New England holds a 6-5 lead in regular-season matchups and a 2-1 advantage in three epic and emotional playoff games, two of them AFC title games.”
“There is a big message in what Michael is doing. He's a superstar athlete who everyone thought had everything in the world. He fell from grace tragically by making some horrific mistakes, paid a significant price, worked his way back in and now he's being successful. It demonstrates to me to get to these young men earlier and work with them and make them understand their responsibility making decisions that will define them for a period of time.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, to the New York Daily News, praising Michael Vick.