Blog Entry

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

Posted on: February 13, 2011 10:56 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 10:57 pm
 

So, is the Cardinals season about to be torpedoed before it even begins?

There was manager Tony La Russa on Sunday, before the first Cardinal of the spring even officially took the field, getting out in front of the issue that right now appears poised to overtake St. Louis' summer.

La Russa admitted Sunday that the Pujols contract situation potentially is a "spectacular distraction" that could turn into a "spectacular excuse" is the Cardinals play poorly.

Understand a couple of things about this.

One, La Russa is a master manipulator who plays mind games as well as anybody in the league. He is adept at spinning situations to create the ultimate "us against them" mentality in the clubhouse.

Two, La Russa thrives in this arena, and he's yet to meet a challenge he doesn't think he can whip. So you bet the Cardinals will be well schooled in the first team meeting of the spring on the volatility of the Pujols talks, what it will mean if any of them starts yapping out of school and of the age-old clubhouse adage, "What you see here, what you hear here, what you discuss here, stays here."

It's hard to remember a La Russa-managed club that hasn't had its share of distractions, some of them even spectacular, many of them orchestrated by La Russa himself. Mark McGwire's return to the game last spring -- sponsored by La Russa -- eventually gave way to peace and quiet. Later in the summer, La Russa's tiff with outfielder Cody Rasmus went public after the manager spelled out his displeasure with Rasmus.

It was La Russa himself who was arrested near the Cardinals' spring facility in Florida in 2007 and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Later that summer, in the aftermath of pitcher Josh Hancock's traffic death, La Russa caused quite a stir when he threatened to take his fungo bat to any reporter who crossed the line with questions about the tragedy.

He has famously feuded with Scott Rolen (hastening Rolen's departure from the Cardinals) as well as Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith (a rift that remains). And remember his Cold War with the umpires in 2003? Among other things, La Russa said that Jerry Crawford has "made it a point to get us."

While none of this relates directly to Pujols, the point is, with the Cardinals, it's always something. Always, there is some controversy or slight, real or perceived, up around the next corner. And it doesn't always mean disaster. Sometimes, the Cardinals thrive in this atmosphere.

Unquestionably, if Pujols and the club cannot resolve the contract differences by midweek and the three-time MVP cuts off talks for the year on Wednesday, this likely will wind up the mother of all spectacular Cardinals distractions. And things could go off the rails, quickly.

But a ticked off Pujols playing with a chip on his shoulder might not be the worst thing in the world. As La Russa said Sunday, the man is "as strong between the ears as anybody I've ever met."

As for the Cardinals, if there is any team -- and any manager -- qualified to head straight out into this sort of storm, it is St. Louis and La Russa.

Doesn't mean it will be a pleasant summer.

But it doesn't mean the Cardinals can't win, either.

Comments

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: February 15, 2011 6:08 pm
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

Tony LaRussa IS a spectacular distraction.

LaRussa's teams have won some games. He's gained some acclaim for that...Sometimes, people start believing thier press and wind up as a parody of themselves. LaRussa has a great start at that.

Playing "mind games" didn't work as well last year for LaRussa and his Cardinals, as say, scoring an occasional run when Pujols or Holliday didn't hit a homer would have, in my opinion.

No manager can win without a winning team, and frankly, without Pujols. LaRussa is beating a dead horse in St. Louis. Last year, he beat a dead horse WITH Pujols.

Have another drink, Tony, it may be a long year.






Since: May 24, 2010
Posted on: February 15, 2011 3:05 pm
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

I'm not sure if you know this or not briancdunham, but 3 good players is nowhere near as valuable as 1 superstar. Aramis Ramirez is unreliable (I'm a Cubs fan I know), Kelly Johnson is decent at best, and Colby is not much better. Also, to the person suggesting that they offer Pujols $40 million for 5 years, that would literally solve no ones problems. The Cardinals would then be paying $10 Million more dollars for those 5 years, and Pujols is accepting $100 milliion less, and he wount be able to get a contract like that for the next 5 years.




Since: Mar 13, 2009
Posted on: February 15, 2011 2:10 pm
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

Also, if they give Pujols $300M then that pretty much ends any chance of re-signing Wainwright or Carpenter.  What is more important to the Cardinals, 2 Cy Young quality pitchers or 1 MVP quality hitter?




Since: Mar 13, 2009
Posted on: February 15, 2011 2:06 pm
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

The magic number for St. Louis is $200M.  Anything more than that is a waste of money.  If he wants more than $200M let him go and give Colby Rasmus $80 for 7 years and wait for next year free agent pool to spend the other $120M to get Kelly Johnson (5 years $40M) and Aramis Ramirez (5 years $80M).  That would be a better use of $200M.  How hard is it to be a GM really????Wink



Since: Aug 26, 2009
Posted on: February 15, 2011 10:43 am
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

The thing that is screwing the Cards right now is Arod's 10 year $275M deal with the Yanks that he signed a few years ago.  That was a terrible contract to give to a guy in his 30's.  Something the Yanks now realize.  Pujols is certainly worth more right now than Arod was in 2007.  So, Pujols has a legit argument for 10 years $300M.  I don't think he gets it in today's market, but I think he wants to test free agency to see if anybody out there is willing to put up those kind of dollars and years.  Cardinal fans should be very afraid, especially because their close rival Chicago Cubs are the most logical suitor for a free agent Albert Pujols.  Somebody will be willing to pay 8 years $240M though, so the Cards better step up.  Its a tough position to be in for the St. Louis ownership.  They are a small market and I'm not sure they can afford this type of committment.  At the same time, if they don't pay the man, they risk a major fan backlash.  I'm sure Albert wants to remain a Cardinal, but every pro athlete wants to be paid what they are worth.  Its not all about the money, but about respect.  Something most fans have a hard time grasping.  This situation has the potential to get very ugly in St. Louis.



Since: Dec 23, 2010
Posted on: February 14, 2011 7:12 pm
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

Screw this. I am a die hard Cardinal Fan but this is too much. Extend 24 hours . Why? Sign Pujols to a 5 Year contract as he will still be the Greatest in 5 Years. Overpay him during the 5 Years. The greedy Superstar can still take the money but give the Cardinal Fans his best since it will be for 5 Years only......Pay him 40 mil a Year for 5 Years. It will cost 200 Million but during those 5 Years of overpaying he will be giving us his Best ! Better to Overpay him as a Superstar for 5 Years then to give him 300 Million for 10 Years when 5 of those Years he will no longer be a Superstar. Its a crazy thing for me to Post but the Idea is your going to Overpay him anyway, why not overpay while he can still win us World Series.



Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: February 14, 2011 2:42 pm
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

I got to agree. The Cubs and Marlins flat out dominated that season, especially in the second half. The Cardinals did not make any noise that year other than the noise of getting beat down by the other top teams.



Since: Dec 8, 2008
Posted on: February 14, 2011 12:35 pm
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

I think Pujols is asking for too much right now. Being already in his thirties it will be difficult for a team to give him a 10 year contract as it is. Also the amount he wants only a handfull of teams can possibly afford that. A good contract for him should be somewhere around 8 years for $210 million



Since: Jun 13, 2007
Posted on: February 14, 2011 12:36 am
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

2003 Playoffs?  Let's see... Florida beat the San Francisco Giants, three games to one; The Cubbies beat the Braves three games to two.  We all remember what happened in the 2003 NLCS...  Where was LaRussa?



Since: Dec 29, 2009
Posted on: February 14, 2011 12:00 am
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

Go ahead.. piss off Pujols.  Don't pay him.  Next thing you know he's a triple crown winner & in demand & worth even more money.  Not sure which is better for the Cards.  Whatever it is.. as long as Albert stays in StL.. then it won't matter.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com