Okay guys, it's not the end of the world, but - did you actually think we'd see this day? Albert has not signed his extension before spring training, and this big, polarizing issue will cloud over the Cardinals 2011 season. It's already looking like the most painful summer ever, and they haven't even signed someone off the scrap heap like Nick Punto yet. Oh.
Let's try to figure out what's going through everyone's head, and answer some questions:
Is Albert Pulling the Strings?
I think Pujols meant what he said at the Winter Warm-Up about not wanting to talk about the negotiations in public, so I'm assuming he'll address the media once on Thursday, say the same thing, and that'll be it. Lozano and Pujols have the right to play hardball, especially because they know that even if Albert re-signs eventually, it won't affect his image in the long-run. In 2014, we'll remember this was just the era before Cards Diaspora became a huge porn site success, but we'll have no recollection of these negotiations whatsoever. Remember when Holiday was a free agent, and no teams really had any interest in pursuing him? And there was nothing rumored for about a month other than Jon Heyman's "sources"? Cardinal fans were fed up with Holiday for not stepping in and getting a deal done. This is what's happening right now. There will be a time where it comes to a boiling point, and a deal gets done before the Cards Talk message boarders burn the city to the ground in Fall 2011.
Does Albert Hate Us?
Unless he's been lying for ten years, Albert loves it here. He's got a great relationship with fans and vice versa. But if he's the Dave Coulier to our Alanis Morissette next off-season, we're not gonna take the break-up very well. After the therapy, I guarantee this website will be the first to pwn him in a series of Billboard chart-toppers played on Y98.
Why Have The Cardinals Only Made One Formal Offer?
The longer this was dragging on, the more I wondered if there were actual numbers tossed around by the Cardinals, or if it was just a broad range of years and dollars? Maybe it was weekly phone calls from Bill DeWitt sounding something like "Are you guys asking for less money yet? Will you please ask for less money?...Hello?" Seriously though, this is not the approach I thought they'd take. The Cards brass has never appeared to be a go-back-and-forth over time operation. When they want one of their own signed to an extension, they sit down and hammer it out by lunch. McGwire, Rolen, and Carpenter immediately come to mind. They were so adamant about re-upping Kyle Lohse that they got a deal done before the season ended. (Who's idea was that again?) Sometime between now and the day before Albert hits free agency in November, they'll be done bluffing and get serious. The waiting sucks, but we can fill that time with more photoshop.
Is Albert Being Greedy?
There's a lot of gray area here. Is Albert being greedy in the fact that his side has thrown out a price, but will not budge? Possibly. But I wouldn't say the Cardinals really improved during the offseason, either. Had the Cardinals signed Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth - then listened to $300 million requests from Lozano, Albert would have to be punched in the face. Either way, we don't know any concrete proposal numbers though, unless you trust Jon Heyman's 8/$200-something story from Tuesday night. But let's face it - we're all down with company and co-worker loyalty, but if people paid that much to watch me do my job, and if bosses paid salaries like that, I wouldn't be a pushover either.
Does Albert Want To Go To Free Agency?
If you asked me this even a month ago, I'd have said no way. Despite what he says about today's deadline, I think Team Albert will give the Cardinals a fair chance to get a deal done in spring training, throughout the season and immediately after. So does he want to go to free agency? Probably not. Does he mind hearing massive contract offers from obscenely rich owners? Fuck no.
What are the Odds that Albert Will Pull A LeBron?
This obviously only happens if he goes to free agency, as Pujols wouldn't have a one-hour ESPN special if he was signing an extension in April. I think Albert likes attention, but I find it hard to believe that he'd go on national TV for his 'Decision.' Howevah - ESPN knows they can sucker him in by offering the Pujols Foundation a truckload of money and do it for the kids. And by "kids" I mean "everyone's wallet." That is assuming 'Albert's Decision' doesn't conflict with NFL LIve, NFL Countdown, NFL 2night, Madden Nation, Fantasy Football Live, Celebrity Flag Football, Stump the Schwab re-runs or the Ed Werder Mustache Hour of Power. ESPN has been douches in the past, and they will strive to be douches in the future. It's not a matter of "if" they'll run another 'Decision' episode, it's "who."
Plenty of real writers have gone in-depth about this whole ordeal and called it for what it is - standard athlete negotation in the year 2011. Nothing more than that. We're just not used to the drama, other than the occasional Rams rookie holdout. We like this stuff to be civil, courteous and quick, with minimal conflict and a trip to Ted Drewes after. It's not the stone-cold lock it once was, but the odds are still in the Cardinals' favor to re-sign Albert.
And hey, if nothing gets worked out - Prince Fielder anyone?