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February 2012

42

COMMENTS

Was Albert Pujols Leaving the Cardinals Bad for the Cubs?

Written by , Posted in General

Coming into the season, the general view is that Albert Pujols leaving St. Louis to head to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was probably bad news for the Cardinals and good news for the rest of the National League Central.  After all, Albert Pujols was almost unarguably the best offensive player in baseball over the past decade.

I will avoid debate regarding the level of decrease the Cardinals will face in 2012 as a result of transitioning from Pujols at first base and Lance Berkman in right field to Berkman at first and Carlos Beltran in right field because I am honestly not very concerned with 2012.  I expect the Cubs to be bad in 2012, hovering in the 70-75 win area they have occupied the last two seasons.  In 2013, I expect the Cubs to “compete” in the NL Central in 2013, by which I mean that they will be within five or six games of first place at the All Star Break and finish around .500.  I expect the Cubs to actually be competitive with a legitimate shot to win the NL Central in 2014.

Let’s look at the landscape of the NL Central in 2014: the Brewers will probably have lost a significant amount of their starting rotation (including possibly Zack Greinke) and do not have the prospects or money to replace the players they are going to lose.  The Reds will almost certainly have lost Joey Votto sometime in the prior calendar year, and will probably be looking to rebuild around Devin Mesoraco.  I will believe the Pirates are going to put it all together when they actually put it all together.  And the Astros are further behind the Cubs, although they should be coming closer two years from now.

Now envision the contract Albert Pujols would have taken from the Cardinals had he been willing to give a hometown discount.  Let’s say he had been willing to take $22 million per year for eight years.  Between Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, the Cardinals would have $39 million, about 40% of their average payroll over the last several years, committed to two players who will be 34 years old in 2014.

Instead, the Cardinals have only $24.75 million committed towards 2014: Holliday’s $17 million and Jaime Garcia for $7.75 million.  Add to that a front office that has been one of the consistently strongest in baseball and one of baseball’s highest rated farm system, and the Cardinals may be able to retool from a team that relies on older vets Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran and Chris Carpenter very quickly.

If there is one team that I truly despise, it is the Cardinals.  But they are also the team I most respect and fear.  If I see the Brewers five games behind the Cubs in mid-August, I am pretty confident the Cubs will maintain the gap.  If I see the Cardinals five games back, I get nervous.  The Cardinals are the Yankees of the National League.  They are the team that turns other team’s has beens into Cy Young award winners.  They are the team that drafts a pudgy third baseman in the thirteenth round of the draft and winds up with Albert Pujols.

I would have loved to see the Cardinals bogged down in massive contracts to two aging veterans through the majority of the decade.  But while having to fight it out with a Cardinals team that has all of its pieces in tact may be more difficult, it is equally true that it will mean more to also beat a Cardinals team at full strength instead of feasting on the eventually inevitable husks of two aging former superstars if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are able to build a team that reaches the promised land.

**I wrote everything above here on Sunday evening, but thought an update was necessary due to the news that Yadier Molina is about to sign a 5 year, $70-$75 million contract extension with the Cardinals.  Molina has been one of the best catchers in baseball over the last five seasons, including probably being the best defensive catcher in baseball over that period.  While I would generally avoid a contract that pays a catcher big dollars through the season where he will turn 35, the Molina brothers have done a good job of being able to stay behind the plate into their mid-30s.  

And if the Cardinals had signed Albert Pujols this offseason, there is almost no conceivable way they would have been able to keep Yadier Molina after 2012.

  • Akuchan

    Most of those moves we’re made by the previous regime. The loss of LaRussa and Duncan will probably reduce the number of reclamation projects that work out for them. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals organization can pull the right strings without their HOF caliber coaching staff.

    • Mark Strickler

      I was really hoping that Pujols would re-sign with the Cards, his production (albeit good) has consistently fallen during the past three years.  That along with the points that Noah made it disappointing that the deal didn’t get done.  Look for the Cards to win the division yet again in 2012.

    • Jedi

      Right on – it has less to do with losing Pujols and more to with losing LaRussa, Duncan, McKay, et al that will almost guarantee the Cards slink back down.

      • Seymour Butts

        Absolutely spot on!
        This division is up for grabs. I for one see no reason not to like the Cubs. I’ve done it all my life.

  • Akuchan

    Most of those moves we’re made by the previous regime. The loss of LaRussa and Duncan will probably reduce the number of reclamation projects that work out for them. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals organization can pull the right strings without their HOF caliber coaching staff.

    • Jedi

      Right on – it has less to do with losing Pujols and more to with losing LaRussa, Duncan, McKay, et al that will almost guarantee the Cards slink back down.

      • Seymour Butts

        Absolutely spot on!
        This division is up for grabs. I for one see no reason not to like the Cubs. I’ve done it all my life.

  • Mark Strickler

    I was really hoping that Pujols would re-sign with the Cards, his production (albeit good) has consistently fallen during the past three years.  That along with the points that Noah made it disappointing that the deal didn’t get done.  Look for the Cards to win the division yet again in 2012.

  • Brad Bradley

    I would have loved to see the Redbirds get stuck with a horrible contract and have it hamstring them for 5 years or so, but I’m still glad he is gone.

    • cap’n obvious

      Anything bad for the Cardinals is good for the Cubs.  The end.

  • mrbaseball2usa

    I would have loved to see the Redbirds get stuck with a horrible contract and have it hamstring them for 5 years or so, but I’m still glad he is gone.

  • cap’n obvious

    Anything bad for the Cardinals is good for the Cubs.  The end.

  • Jedi

    “The Cardinals are the Yankees of the National League.  They are the team that turns other team’s has beens into Cy Young award winners.  They are the team that drafts a pudgy third baseman in the thirteenth round of the draft and winds up with Albert Pujols.”–
    I kept waiting for the punchline – the Cards are nothing like the Yankees as far as franchise construction.  If you need an AL counterpart look at the Rangers, or in the NL – the Braves.

    • Eddie Von White

      Jedi – How many World Series championships have the Rangers and Braves won?  The  Cardinals have won 11 World Series championships, the most of any National League team, and second overall only to the New York Yankees, who have won 27.

      As a Cub fan, I’d be happy with one World Series championship.

      • Jedi

        Like I said – “franchise construction”…which is what Noah was talking about, reclamation projects, good fortune, etc.

        If he was merely boiling it down to WS titles then fine – but that didn’t seem to be his point.

      • Norm

        To answer the title of the post; yes, it was bad for the Cubs.

      • Eddie Von White

        Dale Earnhart Jr. can construct a race car but he has never won a major title – so what good is construction if you don’t know how to win. The Braves will go down in history as the team that could win division titles, but not the playoffs.

      • Jedi

        I can’t make sense of your point there – Noah’s comments seemed to flow like this “the Cards are the Yankees of the NL, they take crap and watch it turn to gold” and all I was merely saying is “crap to gold” is NOT the Yankees business model.  There’s is more “buy someone else’s silver, pimp it as gold, win a whole lot because even if it’s just silver, it’s a LOT more silver than anyone else has.”  The Cards are more akin to the Rangers and Braves, build from within and try to acquire choice pieces when you feel you can legitimately make a run.  Noah’s since said that he was in fact comparing the winning/World Series aspect of the franchises…not sure what NASCAR has to do with any of it.

        If your point is that a bunch of dead and retired guys have left the current Cardinal organization with a better sense of “how to win” well then I can only refute that by saying that the Cubs must have been royally screwed by Tinkers, Evers, Chance, Anson and every turn-of-the-century Cub who had been (to that point) part of a premier and uber-successful baseball franchise.  Apparently those dead Cubs couldn’t pass on their knowledge of “how to win” to the Cubs of the 30s and 40s (see WS flameouts).  But I guess Bob Gibson and Red Schoendienst left behind a secret that the current team was able to decode and turn into a dropped fly ball/triple that changed the course of history.

      • Eddie Von White

        Your point and Noah’s point notwithstanding, my point quite simply is: Nobody remembers who came in second place. The Braves are a second place team, as are the Rangers, as is Dale Jr. I can’t even say the Cubs are a second place team – more like second to last place. Much to my chagrin, the Yankees and the Cardinals are first place teams whether it is by construction or by purchase or by dead guys channeling their secrets back to earth. To put it in the words of the great Vince Lombardi: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Most of us don’t care how the Cubs get there, but let’s figure out a model that wins W.S. – not one that comes in second all the time.

      • BLPCB

        Let make sure that that model is sustainable too. The Cubs should be aiming to win, in the words of the Queen, not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7 titles

      • BLPCB

        But the MLB playoffs are a crapshoot. Not like the NBA where you have an idea who will win.

      • Noah_I

        Eddie’s correct, in that particular sentence I was referring to the history of the Cardinals as opposed to the current makeup of the team.  There is a mystique to the Cardinals that no other team in the National League.  Indeed, I’d say no other team in baseball aside from the Yankees has.  The Cardinals are, to my eternal consternation, the team that has historically just won in the NL. 

        The Yankees truly have no parallel in any sport as far as team construction is concerned, so I wouldn’t try to construct one.  They are in the one American sport where a team is able to outspend all of its competitors by tens of millions dollars, and they are the team that, traditionally, has done so. 

      • Jeremiah Johnson

        I’m not sure I buy this, but if I did, wouldn’t I also have to say that Tony LaRussa retiring is at least as good for the Cubs as Pujols’ departure is potentially bad?  As Noah pointed out, two of the biggest keys to the Cardinals recent success have been player development and reviving the careers of veteran cast offs.  Should we assume that will continue under all new management?  Sure, they will have more money now to lock up their young stars, but will they continue to crank out a productive rookie class every year?  I have to believe that winning isn’t just naturally in the water down there, and at some point there will be a drop off.  And then what?  Will all that freed-up money translate to an influx of free agent talent?  I’m not so sure–St. Louis has never been the biggest free agent spender.  And even if they add that wrinkle to their team-building, they still have to compete with Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, LA, and the Cubs–all of whom have track records of big spending, and can offer more exposure and all the perks of big city living that players might not find as ample in St. Louis.

        Bottom line: there may be some negative ripple effects for the Cubs down the road, but I don’t see how it’s a bad thing that they won’t be facing off against the most talented hitter in a generation sixteen (or more) times a year for the next ten years, regardless of how his former team decides to fill his shoes.  Still, it’s an interesting conversation.

  • Jedi

    “The Cardinals are the Yankees of the National League.  They are the team that turns other team’s has beens into Cy Young award winners.  They are the team that drafts a pudgy third baseman in the thirteenth round of the draft and winds up with Albert Pujols.”–
    I kept waiting for the punchline – the Cards are nothing like the Yankees as far as franchise construction.  If you need an AL counterpart look at the Rangers, or in the NL – the Braves.

  • Eddie Von White

    Jedi – How many World Series championships have the Rangers and Braves won?  The  Cardinals have won 11 World Series championships, the most of any National League team, and second overall only to the New York Yankees, who have won 27.

    As a Cub fan, I’d be happy with one World Series championship.

    • Jedi

      Like I said – “franchise construction”…which is what Noah was talking about, reclamation projects, good fortune, etc.

      If he was merely boiling it down to WS titles then fine – but that didn’t seem to be his point.

      • Eddie Von White

        Dale Earnhart Jr. can construct a race car but he has never won a major title – so what good is construction if you don’t know how to win. The Braves will go down in history as the team that could win division titles, but not the playoffs.

      • Jedi

        I can’t make sense of your point there – Noah’s comments seemed to flow like this “the Cards are the Yankees of the NL, they take crap and watch it turn to gold” and all I was merely saying is “crap to gold” is NOT the Yankees business model.  There’s is more “buy someone else’s silver, pimp it as gold, win a whole lot because even if it’s just silver, it’s a LOT more silver than anyone else has.”  The Cards are more akin to the Rangers and Braves, build from within and try to acquire choice pieces when you feel you can legitimately make a run.  Noah’s since said that he was in fact comparing the winning/World Series aspect of the franchises…not sure what NASCAR has to do with any of it.

        If your point is that a bunch of dead and retired guys have left the current Cardinal organization with a better sense of “how to win” well then I can only refute that by saying that the Cubs must have been royally screwed by Tinkers, Evers, Chance, Anson and every turn-of-the-century Cub who had been (to that point) part of a premier and uber-successful baseball franchise.  Apparently those dead Cubs couldn’t pass on their knowledge of “how to win” to the Cubs of the 30s and 40s (see WS flameouts).  But I guess Bob Gibson and Red Schoendienst left behind a secret that the current team was able to decode and turn into a dropped fly ball/triple that changed the course of history.

      • Eddie Von White

        Your point and Noah’s point notwithstanding, my point quite simply is: Nobody remembers who came in second place. The Braves are a second place team, as are the Rangers, as is Dale Jr. I can’t even say the Cubs are a second place team – more like second to last place. Much to my chagrin, the Yankees and the Cardinals are first place teams whether it is by construction or by purchase or by dead guys channeling their secrets back to earth. To put it in the words of the great Vince Lombardi: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Most of us don’t care how the Cubs get there, but let’s figure out a model that wins W.S. – not one that comes in second all the time.

      • AC0000000

        Let make sure that that model is sustainable too. The Cubs should be aiming to win, in the words of the Queen, not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7 titles

      • AC0000000

        But the MLB playoffs are a crapshoot. Not like the NBA where you have an idea who will win.

    • Noah_I

      Eddie’s correct, in that particular sentence I was referring to the history of the Cardinals as opposed to the current makeup of the team.  There is a mystique to the Cardinals that no other team in the National League.  Indeed, I’d say no other team in baseball aside from the Yankees has.  The Cardinals are, to my eternal consternation, the team that has historically just won in the NL. 

      The Yankees truly have no parallel in any sport as far as team construction is concerned, so I wouldn’t try to construct one.  They are in the one American sport where a team is able to outspend all of its competitors by tens of millions dollars, and they are the team that, traditionally, has done so. 

  • Norm

    To answer the title of the post; yes, it was bad for the Cubs.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I’m not sure I buy this, but if I did, wouldn’t I also have to say that Tony LaRussa retiring is at least as good for the Cubs as Pujols’ departure is potentially bad?  As Noah pointed out, two of the biggest keys to the Cardinals recent success have been player development and reviving the careers of veteran cast offs.  Should we assume that will continue under all new management?  Sure, they will have more money now to lock up their young stars, but will they continue to crank out a productive rookie class every year?  I have to believe that winning isn’t just naturally in the water down there, and at some point there will be a drop off.  And then what?  Will all that freed-up money translate to an influx of free agent talent?  I’m not so sure–St. Louis has never been the biggest free agent spender.  And even if they add that wrinkle to their team-building, they still have to compete with Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, LA, and the Cubs–all of whom have track records of big spending, and can offer more exposure and all the perks of big city living that players might not find as ample in St. Louis.

    Bottom line: there may be some minor negative ripple effects for the Cubs down the road, but I don’t see how it’s a bad thing that they won’t be facing off against the most talented hitter in a generation sixteen (or more) times a year for the next ten years, regardless of how his former team decides to fill his shoes.  Still, it’s an interesting conversation.

  • Buddy

    Not sure if the rumors are true, but it sounds like the Cards are about to give $75 million to a 30-year-old player with a career slugging percentage of .377.

    • BLPCB

      I think the Cardinals will win in the future, with or without Pujols. They are the Cardinals, and everything they touch turns into gold, while things we touch turn to dust. I’m surprised they never picked Prior or Corey Patterson off the scrap heap. I’m sure if they did, they would turn into the superstars they were destined to be.

      • Seymour Butts

        No CAPS, everything LaRussa and Duncan touched turned from shit to shinola. The Cards themselves have a more moderate history. They were the first organization with a farm system and that paid off in the decades before even I was born, but recently it’s been the newly retired management team.

  • Buddy

    Not sure if the rumors are true, but it sounds like the Cards are about to give $75 million to a 30-year-old player with a career slugging percentage of .377.

  • Allan

    Boy I don’t know if the Pirates will ever compete.  I toured their spring training home Pirate City, what a dump.  I have seen the Tigers facility and it doesn’t compare in the least.  Until the Pirates decide to put some money into baseball operations, there is no hope for them.  No wonder everyone can’t wait to bale on them as soon as possible.

  • Allan

    Boy I don’t know if the Pirates will ever compete.  I toured their spring training home Pirate City, what a dump.  I have seen the Tigers facility and it doesn’t compare in the least.  Until the Pirates decide to put some money into baseball operations, there is no hope for them.  No wonder everyone can’t wait to bale on them as soon as possible.

  • AC0000000

    I think the Cardinals will win in the future, with or without Pujols. They are the Cardinals, and everything they touch turns into gold, while things we touch turn to dust. I’m surprised they never picked Prior or Corey Patterson off the scrap heap. I’m sure if they did, they would turn into the superstars they were destined to be.

    • Seymour Butts

      No CAPS, everything LaRussa and Duncan touched turned from shit to shinola. The Cards themselves have a more moderate history. They were the first organization with a farm system and that paid off in the decades before even I was born, but recently it’s been the newly retired management team.