As dozens of media outlets descend upon Jupiter this week, looking for any news from the on-going contract negotiations between the St. Louis Cardinals and their mega-awesome, all-time great, super-incredi-star, first baseman Albert Pujols, fans and concerned parties should look a few miles South for a cautionary tale about how this whole thing could go terribly, terribly wrong.
Pujols' representatives have stated that contract negotiations will not continue beyond today, and that if the team -- which makes its Spring Training home in South Florida -- doesn't agree to a deal by then, Pujols will play out the final year of his contract and enjoy free agency a year from now.
Of course the Cleveland Cavaliers were in a similar spot once, not so long ago. And less than a year after "the Decision" -- less than half way through LeBron's first season in Miami -- Forbes estimates that the Cavaliers have lost more than
a quarter of their total value, while the Miami Heat franchise has become 16 percent more valuable.
Right now there are reports that Pujols is asking for an astounding 10-year contract worth $300 million. That means they'd still be paying a 40-year-old Pujols $30 million per year. Best case scenario: Pujols is blasting through Barry Bonds' career homerun record, sealing his legacy as an all-time legend. Worst case: He's been out of the game for four or five years already, and the franchise is bankrupt.
As of August, the Cardinals were worth an estimated $488 million, but anyone who cares about that team has got to be imagining what it felt like to be a Cavaliers fan when LeBron went back to Cleveland, ripped the fans' hearts out, stomped while smiling, and set off what turned out to be the worst losing streak in the history of professional sports in America.
Now, there are more people on a baseball roster than a basketball team, so LeBron would logically account for a larger percentage of his team than Pujols. And the NBA has a salary structure which had caps. And it's not unthinkable that LeBron may have had a small bit of collusion with his Olympic teammates. But even so, the emotional and monetary costs of losing here could be huge in what is ostensibly a baseball town. So if Pujols' people were telling the truth when they said negotiations wouldn't go beyond today, the Cardinals have some very difficult decisions to make.
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