Tag:Albert Pujols
Posted on: February 21, 2010 9:09 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2010 10:22 pm

Pujols' elbow may give pitchers fits in 2010

JUPITER, Fla. -- National League pitchers may not want to hear this, but St. Louis slugger and three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols says he's "pretty excited" with his surgically repaired right elbow because it feels good and his rehabilitation went well over the winter.

"I feel some good extension," Pujols said after taking batting practice and hitting off of a tee Sunday, his first day in camp (the Cardinals' first full-squad workout isn't until Tuesday). "It's so much better. You're talking, they took out six bone spurs about as big as your pinky fingernail. That's pretty huge."

Pujols is hopeful that the surgery will allow him to avoid Tommy John ligament transfer surgery in the future, the specter of which has been shadowing him for the past few seasons.

"Nine years here, and he's had significant pain in more than half of them," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "That's part of his greatness. He still goes out there, still produces. He had a typically great year.

"He's not oblivious to it but he deals with it."

He dealt with it to the tune of 47 homers, 135 RBI and league-leading on-base (.443) and slugging (.658) percentages last year. He also scored an NL-high 124 runs en route to his third NL MVP trophy.

Of La Russa's assessment that he's played more than half of his career with significant pain, Pujols didn't flinch.

"I can agree with that," he said. "It's something probably with me having such a hard head and not taking the time I need to take during the season because I care about the organization and I love my teammates.

"I believe if I play and can give 85 or 90 percent to help this ballclub, that's good for me."

This was the second surgery on Pujols' right elbow in as many years. In 2008, he had his ulnar nerve transposed, and this winter he had the bone spurs taken out. He was happy after the surgery when the operating physicians, noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews and Dr. George Paletta, indicated that they thought the work done on the elbow would preclude the ligament transfer surgery.

"I might be wrong, because I just woke up from the anesthesia," Pujols joked. "But I think that's what he told me. That day, I woke up and that's what I heard."

What he's tired of hearing is talk about his contract, which runs through this season with a club option for 2011. As if the nearing end of Pujols' deal isn't intriguing enough on its own, the fact that the Cardinals re-signed Matt Holliday to a seven-year, $120 million deal over the winter added another layer. How St. Louis will fit two whopper contracts -- if the Cardinals do negotiate an extension with Pujols -- into its budget is grist for armchair GMs.

The subject arose again Sunday because Pujols previously has indicated that he would not negotiate once the season begins.

"I don't want to talk about that right now," Pujols said. "It's been the talk for the last three years, and it's getting to the point that it's getting irritating to talk about. Let's wait until something happens."

Sunblock day? Heck, yes, Beautiful. Temperatures in the mid-70s. Enough to make me scurry by a pharmacy to pick up some sunblock -- something I had delayed doing because it had been jacket weather for the past several days.

Likes: Working in the room the other night with the Olympics on the tube, I saw Katie Uhlaender on the skeleton and couldn't help but smile. And feel sad. Her father was Ted Uhlaender, the former major league outfielder who passed away last February. Ted was a baseball lifer and was scouting for San Francisco at the time of his death. He was a terrific man, owner of a ranch, horses and who knows what else. How did I know his daughter was on the U.S. team? Her proud papa told me about it two or three years ago during a conversation in this very same hotel I'm in now. A few years later, he's gone, she's in her second Olympics and I'm in this hotel, watching her and thinking of him. ... Caught Crazy Heart a few days before spring training and highly recommend it. Jeff Bridges was outstanding as a burned out, alcoholic country singer. The character is modeled after a composite of old country musicians including Waylon Jennings, but watching Bridges, I kept thinking of Kris Kristofferson. The physical resemblance is striking. ... Love the Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute on Alabama's license plates, which I hadn't seen in a long time until driving to Cardinals' camp this morning. They read "Alabama" on the bottom. Across the top it reads "Sweet Home."

Dislikes: Can't help but laugh each time I stay at this ol' hotel in Palm Beach Gardens, because it's very close to Wackenhut headquarters. I was employed by Wackenhut -- "a world leader in providing high-end armed and unarmed security personnel. ..." -- a long, long time ago. Matter of fact, it was for a few weeks the summer after I graduated from high school. It was the overnight graveyard shift at a nuclear power plant, and I was an unarmed security guard. Hated the job and the hours, and all these years later I still shake my head. Me, an 18-year-old unarmed security guard making the rounds at 2 and 3 a.m. at a nuclear power plant. I still have no idea what I was supposed to do had the bad guys showed up.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"If dreams were lightning, thunder was desire
"This old house
"It would have burned down a long time ago"

-- Bonnie Raitt (John Prine), Angel from Montgomery


Posted on: January 5, 2010 11:15 pm

Cardinals: Full speed ahead with Holliday

Did St. Louis vastly overpay slugger Matt Holliday in his spiffy new seven-year, $120 million deal?

Are the Cardinals headed for serious turbulence given their colossal Holliday commitment when The Franchise, Albert Pujols, is hurtling toward free agency himself (his contract is up after 2010, the Cards hold a 2011 option on him)?

Is there impending doom just around the corner?

Legitimate questions, all.

But, man, are the 2010 Cardinals going to have some fun.

With a middle-of-the-order containing Holliday and Pujols, Lethal Weapons I and II, and with a top-of-the-rotation featuring Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, Tony La Russa again will be managing a Disneyland of a club.

The Cardinals just became heavy NL Central favorites. Yeah, yeah, the Cubs will be leaner and meaner having purged themselves of Mr. Oversized Baggage, Milton Bradley. Milwaukee still can score. Cincinnati? Pittsburgh? Houston? Please.

La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak are playing for keeps, and though this isn't a perfect team -- the Cards remain light at shortstop (Brendan Ryan) and rookie David Freese currently is the Lone Ranger on the depth chart at third base -- there is too much else to like. Besides, even with Mark De Rosa off the board (signed with San Francisco), the Cards will scoop up someone. Otherwise ... Ryan Ludwick, Colby Rasmus (who now comes with a year of seasoning), Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker ... and did I mention the Holliday-Pujols tandem?

Yes, the richest contract awarded this winter seems somewhat excessive, given the fact that the Cardinals' chief competition in negotiations for Holliday at this point seemed to be the Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars. Once the Mets signed Jason Bay, there essentially was just one chair left for Holliday, and it was in Pujols' clubhouse.

That said, for Holliday to earn an average annual value of $17 million, exceeding Bay's $16 million a year, is just one more feather in the already overstuffed and plumed cap of superagent Scott Boras. How does he keep doing this?

Mozeliak fretted some at the GM meetings in Chicago two months ago at the prospect of attempting to squeeze both Holliday and Pujols into one payroll. In the end, clearly, he decided the alternative -- losing Holliday -- was worse.

There will be lots of tightrope walking ahead, especially when negotiations open for an extension for Pujols. But you know what? That's another problem for another day, and there is every chance that Mozeliak and Co. will work around that and figure it out.

To all those who already are worrying that the Cardinals won't be able to afford Pujols down the line, I ask you this:

If the Cardinals don't make moves like they did Tuesday to retain Holliday and the team gets worse, do you think Pujols will want to stay in St. Louis then?

Play it too conservatively, don't field a World Series contender, and there's no guarantee Pujols stays.

Play it too aggressively, commit a ton of dough to Holliday ... and there's no guarantee Pujols stays.

Which way would you rather go?

The answer is obvious: Try to win while you figure out a way to keep Pujols.

Sure, eventually, the Cardinals may live to regret it. They now become one of only three big league clubs to employ at least two players making $100 million each -- the others, of course, are the Yankees (CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter) and the Mets (Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran). Sometime in the future, maybe they may find themselves looking to trade Holliday in order to keep Pujols. Maybe in the interim, they win a World Series, too.

At the risk of sounding overly naïve, the future will take care of itself ... and if need be, Mozeliak will massage and adapt and figure it out.

As for the present, the Cardinals made the right move.

Posted on: January 5, 2010 6:32 pm

Cardinals close deal to bring back Matt Holliday

St. Louis and slugger Matt Holliday have agreed to terms on a seven-year, $120 million deal that allows the Cardinals to cross a major item off of their winter to-do list, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

The deal, a major score for Holliday in that the Cardinals really didn't seem to have much competition left for his services at this point in the winter, also includes a full no-trade clause. It also should re-establish St. Louis as NL Central favorites, given the powerful one-two punch of Holliday and Albert Pujols in the middle of the lineup and co-aces Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright atop the rotation.

A return to St. Louis also will give Holliday the chance to re-write what would have been a highly unsatisfying ending to his stay with the Redbirds following his crucial error in left field during Game 2 in Los Angeles last October in the playoffs. The botched play helped position the Dodgers to sweep in three games and largely contributed to a stunningly premature end to the season for a team that had serious World Series hopes.

The Cardinals, of course, probably wouldn't have been in that position in the first place without Holliday, whose bat sent them on a torrid second half run after they acquired him from Oakland in late July. In 63 games with the Cardinals, Holliday batted .353 with 13 homers and 55 RBI.


Posted on: August 21, 2009 12:24 am

Greene, Padres settle dispute

Khalil Greene arrived in San Diego on Thursday with his St. Louis Cardinals teammates -- but without union representation.

Which was a very good thing for him.

Greene and the Padres settled a grievance in which the club was attempting to recover up to $1.47 million in salary from last August and September when the shortstop was sidelined after a suffering a self-inflicted injury. The grievance hearing had been scheduled for this month.

"It was resolved a couple of weeks ago in a mutually satisfactory way," Padres chairman Jeff Moorad said.

Moorad declined to reveal terms because the parties signed a confidentiality clause. David Prouty, chief labor counsel for the major league baseball players association, confirmed the settlement Thursday.

"It certainly was something, as far as it being over and done, I'm glad it's over," Greene said. "It was something that was on my mind for a long time up until the point when it was finally finished.

"I'm glad to be done with it."

Greene suffered a broken hand last July 30 when, in a fit of anger, he punched a storage locker in Petco Park during a game. The Padres, angry to have lost their shortstop for the season and in a financial pinch, wanted to dock his salary for the time he missed.

It is believed that Greene wound up receiving most of, if not all of, the $1.47 million due him. One precedent the players' union was citing in its case involved former pitcher Doyle Alexander, who won a similar grievance in 1982 when the Yankees attempted to recover salary paid while he was sidelined for two months because of a similar self-inflicted injury. Then, Alexander fractured a knuckle when he punched the dugout wall.

Greene has been on the disabled list twice this summer with anxiety disorder issues and is hitting only .211 with five homers and 23 RBI in 57 games for St. Louis. He also has eight errors.

Likes: When people talk about Albert Pujols' greatness as a complete player, this is what they're talking about: Pujols swiping second on a 3-and-0 count to Matt Holliday in the ninth inning of a tied game in Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. It caught the Dodgers so flat-footed that shortstop Rafael Furcal didn't even back up the play, so nobody was there when the ball skipped away from Orlando Hudson. So Pujols took third, then scored the winning run on Holliday's fly ball. It even got a smile from normally stone-faced manager Tony La Russa when I asked him about it. ... College football getting close. ... Don Middlebrook's new CD Beach Bar Serenade. Check out Don's stuff here. ... Bob Dylan's latest Together Through Life. Really good. ... Dark Star's Sports Tonight radio program in Minnesota. ... The latest leg of Bruce Springsteen's tour opening in the United States -- in Hartford, Conn. -- on Wednesday. ... The Farrah Fawcett photo on the cover of this month's Vanity Fair. And I'm particularly glad that, of the two covers of this month's magazine -- Fawcett and Michael Jackson -- the issue featuring Fawcett was the one that landed in my mailbox. ... John Mellencamp's new song Save Some Time to Dream, that apparently will appear on a CD to be issued this fall. He's playing it in concert this summer. ... The free Friday concerts in the park near my house in the summertime. Just one more to go this weekend. Quick, somebody slow summer down. It's disappearing too quickly.

Dislikes: Who says the education system in this country doesn't need fixing? And I'm not talking math, science or even diagramming sentences. I'm talking about the young police officers in New Jersey who didn't even know who Bob Dylan was last month. Very amusing story here.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
"He gets me my drinks for free
"And he's quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
"But there's someplace that he'd rather be
"He says Bill, I believe this is killing me
"As the smile ran away from his face
"Well Im sure that I could be a movie star
"If I could get out of this place"

-- Billy Joel, Piano Man

Posted on: July 15, 2009 2:26 am

Next up for Pujols: Rest

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals were stuck with a Sunday night game in Chicago, they didn't land in St. Louis until 2:30 a.m. Monday and slugger and local hero Albert Pujols did every last possible thing asked of him during All-Star week.

Which left precious little time for sleep.

Pujols looked exhausted before Tuesday's All-Star Game, in which he went 0-for-3 and committed a first-inning error, and admitted he had very little sleep on Monday night after press conferences, the Home Run Derby and assorted other appearances.

Now, the Cardinals don't open the second half of the season until Friday against Arizona which, presumably, gives Pujols two full days to rest.

Will it be enough?

Is his manager worried that Pujols will begin the second half of the season tired?

"Pitch to him Friday and see if he's tired," Tony La Russa said.

Posted on: November 17, 2008 4:48 pm

Pujols hoping to avoid major elbow surgery

The most-watched elbow in St. Louis is doing fine right now, thank you very much, Albert Pujols says.

But as he rehabs after undergoing a mid-October procedure to relieve nerve irritation in his troubled right elbow, Pujols said Monday that there remains a "25 percent chance" that he'll still need Tommy John ligament transfer surgery.

It's what the newly minted NL Most Valuable Player has been hoping to avoid for the past couple of seasons and, despite the outpatient procedure he had last month, there's a part of him that sounds like he's still holding his breath.

"Hopefully I don't have to have the Tommy John surgery," Pujols said. "There's a 25 percent chance I'll still have to have it."

But there is no way to know "until I get on the field and perform and see how it is."

Doctors estimate that Pujols would miss half-a-season if he undergoes the ligament transfer procedure.

So for now, he's rehabilitating the elbow from the procedure he underwent in October. His second MVP award might even be more remarkable than his first, which he won in 2006, because he played all season with a bad elbow.

"The worst part was the last two months," Pujols said. "It was really tingling. I was more uncomfortable with that than with the pain. I was used to the pain.

"But after the game, sometimes I wouldn't be able to feel my pinky (finger)."

Pujols said he hopes his doctor clears him to begin lifting weights soon after Thanksgiving.

Likes: It's on to the Michigan state high school football semifinals for the Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons, who staged another miraculous last few minutes in Friday's 18-14 win over Manchester. Kudos not only to the kids, who have the heart of a lion, but to Coach Jack Giarmo, who started this season with a very young team (eight sophomore starters) and continues what might be the best coaching job of his career.

Dislikes: Every fall, scorching hot, dry conditions cause these devastating Southern California wildfires, and lives change in the snap of a finger. When you have a second, say a prayer for everyone in Orange County and Los Angeles whose lives have been thrown into chaos these last few days. Heartbreaking picture on the front page of the Los Angeles Times today of a young boy hugging his dog on in the burned-out wreckage of what once was his neighborhood.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder's rolling down the tracks
You don't know where you're goin'
But you know you won't be back
Darlin' if you're weary
Lay your head upon my chest
We'll take what we can carry
And we'll leave the rest
Big Wheels rolling through fields
Where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Land of Hope and Dreams

Category: MLB
Posted on: November 17, 2008 2:40 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2008 2:49 pm

Pujols right choice for NL MVP

Because, in a perfect world, the Most Valuable Player award should be one part player-of-the-year and one part importance-to-team, Albert Pujols' claim to the National League award on Monday was right on the money.

Pujols was the MVP in the NL because, in addition to superior numbers, he was the most consistent best player from early April through late September. No, two of his numbers weren't superior -- Philadelphia's Ryan Howard out-homered Pujols 48-37, and out-RBI'd Pujols 146-116.

That's a whopping margin, particularly in the RBI department. Because of that and the fact that Howard helped push his team into the playoffs, no doubt there will be Phillies fans ranting and raving up and down Broad St. this week screaming that Howard was robbed.

He wasn't. Pujols' NL-leading .653 slugging percentage and .462 on-base percentage (second in the NL) tell only part of the story. An essential part of the story, to be sure, but there is more.

Pujols remains the most feared hitter in the league, and no, his Cardinals did not make the playoffs. But they were in contention into September, because of him. Ryan Ludwick had a career season, because of him. All those meaty pitches Pujols didn't get -- he was second in the league in walks at 110 -- Ludwick, usually hitting after Pujols, did get. To Ludwick's credit, like a kid turned loose in a 31-flavors ice cream shop, he took full advantage.

Do you know where Howard ranked in walks? Fourteenth, with 81. He was neither as selective as Pujols nor as feared by opposing pitchers (Pujols drew exactly twice as many intentional walks as Howard, 34- 17). Yes, many of Pujols' intentional walks were because he didn't have Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell in the lineup -- he was much easier to pitch around. That's why this isn't a cornerstone of Pujols' case for MVP. But it is part of it.

Yes, Howard's scorching hot August and September helped push the Phillies past the New York Mets and into the playoffs. But his 199 strikeouts (second in the NL) also were part of the reason the Phillies took so long to get going this season -- and his pre-All-Star Game numbers, .234 batting average and 129 strikeouts -- hurt, not helped, the Phillies' case.

Look, Howard still had a fantastic season. Micro-analyzing these numbers to a degree sounds like nitpicking, because to a degree, it is.

But you've got to break down the numbers and, almost every way you break them down -- save for the RBI and homer totals -- they fall strongly toward Pujols.

As for Manny Ramirez -- more on him, too, in the fleshed-out column I'll file here before the afternoon is out -- yes, he was outstanding for two months. But he wasn't in the NL in April, May, June and July. And while the argument that the Dodgers don't make the playoffs without Manny certainly is valid, so, too, is this: They were 30-24 with him.

That's simply not enough to warrant more than he got -- a fourth-place finish. And there's certainly no shame in that.

Posted on: September 8, 2008 11:35 pm

Pausing for one of season's nicest moments

It's a very long road, coming back after taking a line drive in the face, and much as you might think that San Diego right-hander Chris Young is fully up to speed given his 7 2/3 perfect innings in Milwaukee on Sunday, just know this:

His ears still fill with pressure during airplane flights, so much so that after the Padres flew home from Wisconsin on Sunday night, Young's right ear still felt clogged Monday evening before San Diego opened this week's homestand with Los Angeles.

He was brilliant -- and inspirational -- in threatening to throw the first no-hitter in San Diego franchise history, and it was all the more impressive when you consider that he missed a large chunk of this season after an Albert Pujols line drive broke several bones in his face on May 21.

He still can't smell that well. And he still doesn't know if he ever will.

"It's not like it was," he says. "I'm going to have a doctor look at my sinuses and ears after the season, tell me what I can expect, tell me what I should expect going forward.

"Every time I fly, there's pressure in my ears. My sense of smell isn't what it was. Little things that I took for granted. Getting treatment (in the trainer's room), when I lay with my head face down, there's pressure. My bones are still sensitive to the touch."

The damage was immense when Pujols' screamer smashed into Young's nose/forehead region (essentially drilling him between the eyes). Thankfully, he didn't lose an eye. He did undergo surgery to repair facial fractures and a deviated septum, and to reopen his nasal passages.

For a time, it was questionable as to whether the 6-foot-10 former Princeton University basketball player would even return this season. He did come back, 10 weeks later -- only to make three starts and then land on the disabled list, this time with a forearm strain.

At that point, it seemed the smart thing to do might have been to simply shut it down for the season and start again in 2009. Young, an All-Star in 2007, refused, for a lot of reasons.

"The biggest thing is, I don't get paid to sit out," says Young, now 5-5 with a 4.48 ERA. "I'm paid to be competing, helping this team win ballgames. When I'm healthy, I can do that. And as a competitor, I hate sitting out."

He's taken two no-hitters into the late innings before, carrying one into the eighth inning and another into the ninth in 2006. Being that the Padres have never had one (nor has, surprisingly, the New York Mets), it could have been quite a moment.

It still was, even though Gabe Kapler blasted an eighth-inning homer to wreck Young's bid.

As fate would have it, the very next play following Kapler's homer was a Bill Hall comebacker -- the first liner up the middle to laser in on Young since Pujols'.

He caught this one, then walked off the field to a classy standing ovation by Milwaukee's fans.

"I really didn't think about it much," Young says of Hall's liner. "It was similar to the pitch to Pujols, he just didn't barrel it up as much.

"I thought about it for a split-second after I caught it."

It still wasn't as daunting as facing his first live hitters during a batting practice session shortly before his July 29 return to the rotation.

And it was a lot more enjoyable.

"It was a lot of fun," Young says. "It was a great day for the team, a great win for us. And it was a great atmosphere, too, playing in a full stadium against a team still playing for something.

"It's a day I'll probably remember for a long, long time."

Likes: Baltimore actually extending a manager who's done a good job at this time of year instead of discussing how long until the Orioles manager is fired. Dave Trembley has done wonders with this year's O's, whose lack of talent finally has caught up to them here in the past few weeks. ... Dodgers shortstop Angel Berroa, back from oblivion. ... The jumbled NL MVP race. Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Carlos Delgado, CC Sabathia, Lance Berkman, Geovany Soto, Ryan Braun, Manny Ramirez and if I'm leaving anybody else out, I apologize. ... Vin Scully coming back next year. Let me tell you: I was home last Friday night watching baseball on television. The Dodgers-Diamondbacks were on one channel on high-definition. And I love high-definition. They also were on another channel, not high-definition, but Scully was broadcasting. I went with the poorer picture so I could listen to Scully. Easy choice. ... My football Falcons of Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central drilling Riverview 28-8 last Friday night in their league opener. Young team, starting eight sophomores, but great 2-0 start. Look out, Flat Rock.

Dislikes: Lies in the presidential campaign. Blatant, obvious, false-reality lies.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Come senators, congressmen
"Please heed the call
"Don't stand in the doorway
"Don't block up the hall
"For he that gets hurt
"Will be he who has stalled
"There's a battle outside
"And it is ragin'

-- Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin'

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