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Tag:Albert Pujols
Posted on: February 20, 2012 3:04 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 3:13 pm
 

How Albert Pujols can help the 2012 Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. -- In the oddest of ways, perhaps Albert Pujols is helping the Cardinals this spring.

His presence is felt . . . because of his absence.

Let me explain.

Because Pujols is gone -- and because Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan are also gone -- the Cardinals have a strong sense that they're now being doubted. And a strong sense that they're the rare defending champions who come to camp with something to prove.

Instead of listening to everyone tell them how good they are, the Cardinals have listened to everyone ask about what they've lost.

If they win this year, it won't be because they had Albert or Tony.

"They want to make their own statement," general manager John Mozeliak said Monday.

"I see a lot of chips on shoulders that I didn't think I'd see," new manager Mike Matheny said. "And that's a beautiful thing."

Matheny said later that he didn't equate those chips simply to Pujols' departure, but it's easy to see that it plays into it.

Just in the first two days of camp, it seems that half the Cardinals players have felt compelled to say, "We have a good team," something that is normally just accepted with a defending champion.

"Not that they take offense, but they think they're not chopped liver," Matheny said.

The Cardinals certainly appreciate what Pujols meant to them, and they say they wish him well with the Angels. A few said they have kept in touch with Pujols.

"We're still good friends," pitcher Kyle McClellan said. "We've exchanged texts. I hope he goes there and has as good a next 10 years as he had here."

If Cardinals fans have come to resent Pujols for his decision to leave, that sentiment seems absent (or at least unspoken) within the Cardinal clubhouse.

"We know what he meant to this team, this organization," Skip Schumaker said. "But we have to move on. I'll keep up with him, because he's a friend. But we've still got a pretty darned good chance to win."

They do have a good chance to win. It feels funny that we even need to say that about a team that won the World Series, then lost one big star but added in Carlos Beltran and has added back Adam Wainwright, who missed 2011 after Tommy John surgery.

But that's what Pujols has given the 2012 Cardinals. He's given them a defense against complacency.

"There is none," Mozeliak said.

No complacency here. And the Cardinals can thank Albert (and Tony) for that.



Posted on: February 19, 2012 5:43 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 11:42 pm
 

Cardinals, Molina stop talking deal -- "for now"

JUPITER, Fla. -- When Albert Pujols arrived at spring training last year, negotiations on a new contract were over. And, as it turned out, Pujols was on the way out of town.

Sunday, Yadier Molina opened Cardinals camp by saying his contract negotiations with the team had ended.

For now, the free-agent-to-be catcher then added.

For now.

Unlike his good friend Pujols, Molina has not ruled out reopening negotiations, during the spring or possibly during the season.

"They know I'm open to talk," Molina said Sunday, after confirming that this month's talks ended with no agreement.

It's hard to know for sure how likely the Cardinals and Molina are to get a deal done. The catcher, who turns 30 in July, will make $7 million this year, on the option year of a contract signed in 2008.

Molina says he loves St. Louis and the Cardinals organization, but he wouldn't say that he'd be willing to take less money to do it.

"I'd like to work something out to try to stay," he said. "At the same time, this is a business."

Likewise, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak didn't exactly say that re-signing Molina was on his must-do list.

"Our desire would be to find a way to sign him," Mozeliak said.

That way will have to wait. How long? It's hard to say.

"We've stopped talking," Molina said. "For now, we've stopped talking."



Posted on: December 7, 2011 3:47 am
 

Latest on Rangers, and other meetings notes

DALLAS -- More baseball talk from the second full day at the winter meetings:

-- The hometown Rangers have watched the Marlins dominate the first two days of the meetings, and they spent Tuesday night meeting with the representative for pitcher C.J. Wilson, who they very likely will not re-sign. But the Rangers have been active on many other fronts, according to sources. They're in on free-agent pitcher Mark Buehrle, and potentially in on free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. Also, despite already signing closer Joe Nathan, the Rangers have considered a run at A's closer Andrew Bailey, who is available in trade.

-- The Phillies have decided against pursuing free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, and will instead keep Placido Polanco at third and fully concentrate their efforts on retaining shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Ramirez still has interest from the Brewers and Angels, and the Brewers could be the best fit (assuming they don't re-sign Fielder).

-- While much of the day Tuesday was dominated by the Albert Pujols chase, agent Scott Boras has decided to let the Fielder market develop more slowly. Interested teams include the Cubs, Rangers, Mariners, Orioles and possibly the Nationals, plus the Brewers.

-- The Reds have continued to pursue starting pitching. They've been probably the most aggressive team after Jair Jurrjens of the Braves, and have also continued a dialogue with the Rays that began last July.

-- While the Marlins pursued Pujols, they also continued to look at starting pitching. The Marlins have tried for both of the top two free-agent starters (Wilson and Buehrle), and have also made trade inquiries on Gio Gonzalez of the A's and Wandy Rodriguez of the Astros, among others.

-- The Cardinals have been so focused on trying to retain Pujols that they have yet to have a full-group meeting on what path they would pursue if he leaves. Some think they could pursue Rollins or Ryan Madson, and others believe that they could jump in on Buehrle.


Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:46 am
 

Brewers finally show some optimism about Fielder

DALLAS -- Could Prince be the one who stays?

Remember, the assumption all along was that Albert Pujols was the guy who wasn't going anywhere, the guy who was destined to re-sign with the Cardinals. And perhaps he still will.

Prince Fielder was the guy on his way out the door, the guy who was going to get big offers that the Brewers were not going to match. And perhaps that's still true.

But Sunday, even as Pujols' future was in a little more doubt, with reports that the Marlins plan to strongly pursue him after signing Jose Reyes, there was a hint of optimism from Brewers people about their chances at keeping Fielder.

None of them were out and out predicting that Fielder will stay. They acknowledged that a huge offer elsewhere could be too much for them to match.

But the same guys who have been saying for months that it was the longest of longshots were now insisting it could happen, for two reasons.

One, the early market for Fielder doesn't seem to have exploded. Teams are interested, including the Mariners, the Nationals and possibly the Rangers or Cubs. But the indications so far have been that the market may not go crazy.

Second, Brewers people never discount the competitiveness and aggressiveness of owner Mark Attanasio. And Attanasio seems to be indicating that he wants to make a real effort to keep his star first baseman.

None of that means that Fielder will be back in Milwaukee. But for the first time in quite a while, it actually seems possible.


Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 3:40 pm
 

On the final day, Braun got my vote

As I wrote on the final Sunday of the regular season, the National League MVP race was so close that I wouldn't decide until the season was over.

When it was, I picked Ryan Braun over Matt Kemp.

So did the majority of the voters, which is why Braun is this year's NL MVP.

Kemp had an outstanding season. So did Braun.

Braun had a huge impact on the pennant race. Kemp, basically through no fault of his own, did not.

The MVP is an individual award, but baseball is a team game. Everything you do is affected by your teammates.

And in my mind, it's hard (but not impossible) to be the MVP when your teammates aren't good enough to help you contend for a championship.

Would my vote have been different had Kemp won the Triple Crown, as he had a chance to do in the final weeks of the season?

It's possible it would have been. You'll never know, because I'll never know. I never had to make that decision.

I had to decide based on what did happen, and what happened was that Braun's great season helped his team to a championship, while Kemp's great season kept his team from losing more games than it won.

My ballot:

1. Braun.

2. Kemp.

3. Prince Fielder. For the first part of the season, he was even better than Braun. For the whole year, Braun got the edge.

4. Albert Pujols. He started slow (for him), and then he was hurt. But he came back strong, and so did his team.

5. Lance Berkman. Without him, the Cardinals would have been buried early.

6. Roy Halladay. The Phillies were the dominant team in the regular season, and their starting pitching was the reason. The problem was that it was hard to separate out one starter.

7. Justin Upton. Great year, great story, but his home-road split (1.033 OPS at home, .767 on road) held him down.

8. Cliff Lee. Based on June (5-0, 0.21) and August (5-0, 0.45), he was the MVP. For the full season, he just makes the ballot.

9. Joey Votto. Didn't repeat his 2010 season, so he won't repeat as MVP.

10. Carlos Ruiz. His numbers are nowhere near MVP-worthy. I gave him a 10th-place vote because of the impact he has on the Phillies pitching, which was so good that if I could have voted for the rotation as a whole, they would have been the MVP.


Posted on: November 17, 2011 2:55 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 2:58 pm
 

No Marlins signings, but it's a 'new environment'

MILWAUKEE -- They're still the new Marlins. The offers are still out there.

The stadium is still new.

And the fact that none of those big offers have yet been accepted?

Hey, none of those big-name free agents has yet signed anywhere else, either.

"I don't feel pressure to do anything -- ever," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said as he left baseball's owners meetings Thursday. "But it's a new environment."

In this new environment, the Marlins can bid on Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes and others, and even get them to Miami on recruiting visits. They're still considered a longshot on signing Pujols, but may even be the favorite at this point for Reyes.

One complication with signing Reyes would be that incumbent shortstop Hanley Ramirez would need to move to third base. The Miami Herald reported this week that Ramirez isn't thrilled with the idea, but Loria insisted it won't be a problem.

"He's a wonderful team guy," Loria said.

Remember, new Marlins, new environment.

In Loria's mind, new environment and new stadium are related.

Asked Thursday if it was a big step that big-name free agents have visited the Marlins, he was quick with his answer.

"I think all you have to do is go to Miami and look at the ballpark, and you wouldn't ask that," he said.

As for whether he thinks the Marlins will sign Reyes, Pujols or any of the others, Loria simply said: "I don't know, we'll wait and see."




Posted on: November 14, 2011 5:22 pm
 

Kemp signs, and 2013 free-agent class takes a hit

MILWAUKEE -- Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder made it to the free-agent market.

Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez didn't.

It's always fun to look a few years down the line to see who what treats each year's free-agent marketplace will offer.

And it's always important to remember that those treats may or may not reach the market.

Matt Kemp could have been a free agent next winter. Jered Weaver could have, too.

Kemp and Weaver chose to take the big money upfront and stay in Southern California instead.

For now, Matt Cain and Cole Hamels remain on the list of possible 2012-13 free agents. In fact, right now Matt Cain and Cole Hamels probably top the list of 2012-13 free agents.

Hamels may not make it to the market, either. The Phillies would like to sign him to a long-term deal this winter.

Cain may not make it there, either. And it wouldn't exactly be shocking if Zack Greinke (another potential 2012-13 free agent) stays in Milwaukee.

The 2012-13 class was never going to match this winter's class. There wasn't a Fielder, and there wasn't a Pujols. There wasn't a Verlander or a Felix, two ace starters who would have been free agents this winter if they hadn't signed long-term deals with their own teams.

With Kemp and Weaver, though, the class would have featured a potential MVP and a potential Cy Young winner.

Without them, it just doesn't look as good.


Posted on: October 29, 2011 6:47 pm
 

Best game ever? How about best month ever?

The Yankees don't think it was such a great month. The Phillies are sure it wasn't a great month.

Oh, and the Red Sox? No, the last 31 days weren't exactly pleasant for them.

But it sure was great for the rest of us, the best month of baseball most of us have seen, or will see, in our lifetimes.

If it gets better than this, I won't complain. But I'm not planning on it.

We had the best single regular-season night ever, on the final night of the regular season, and maybe the best game ever, on the next-to-last night of the World Series.

We had so many great games that the best individual offensive performance in World Series history barely makes the list. So many that Chris Carpenter's three-hit 1-0 shutout in a winner-take-all Game 5 wasn't even his most important performance of the month.

This is the third year now that I've written a postseason recap, and it's the first time that the best game of the month wasn't the first game I saw. Nothing against Tigers-Twins (Game 163 in 2009) or Roy Halladay's no-hitter (Division Series 2010), but it's a better month when the drama builds.

This month, we saw Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, Chris Carpenter, Nelson Cruz and David Freese. We saw squirrels. We saw Na-po-li. We saw history.

We saw Game 6.

What a month.

Here's a look back:

Best game: Some people are insisting that Game 6 of the World Series can't be called great, because there were physical errors early and possible managerial errors late. Sorry, but that's ridiculous. So it wasn't the best-played game ever. Fine. It had thrills, it had drama, it had plenty to second-guess, it had great performances and gritty performances. You go ahead and say it wasn't perfect. I'm going to say it was the best game I've ever seen.

Best moment: The flashbulbs going off when Albert Pujols batted in the seventh inning of Game 7 were great. Yes, it could have been his final Cardinals at-bat. But the best moment of the postseason -- Pujols' best moment -- was when he called time out to allow the Miller Park crowd to honor Prince Fielder, who very, very likely was stepping to the plate for his final Brewers at-bat.

Best chant: In the end, maybe this wasn't the Year of the Napoli, after all. But it sure was the month of the "Na!-Po!-Li!" at Rangers Ballpark. Mike Napoli became such an instant hero that I saw a Rangers fan who had altered his year-old Cliff Lee jersey, adding "Na-po" above the "Lee."

Best crowd: It was incredibly loud all month in Texas. It was louder than ever in St. Louis for the final outs of Game 7. But everyone who was at Miller Park this month came back raving about the atmosphere and the Brewers' fans (and everyone who was at Chase Field said there was barely any atmosphere for the Diamondbacks' two home games).

Best player: Tough call. Freese was a revelation, and not just in the World Series. Cabrera was outstanding. So was Ryan Braun. But Pujols was the guy I'll remember most, from his great defensive play against the Phillies to his historic three-homer game against the Rangers.

Best movie review: Moneyball took a beating every time Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took to the podium. La Russa went to see the movie the night Game 6 was rained out, and the next night he said that it "strains the credibility a little bit." La Russa, like others, complained about the portrayal of scouts, and about the lack of mentions of Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson. "That club was carried by those guys that were signed, developed the old-fashioned way," La Russa said. "That part wasn't enjoyable, because it's a nice story but it is not accurate enough."

Most disappointing team: The Red Sox. The Phillies didn't make it out of the first round. Neither did the Yankees, who then apologized to their fans for their "failure." But Boston's collapse was so bad that it led to the departure of the manager and general manager who broke the curse. The Red Sox will recover, but they'll never be the same.

Best prediction: It's well established by now that I can't pick winners. But when the postseason began, I jokingly wrote that every series would go the distance. Turned out I was almost right, as 38 of a possible 41 games were required. Three of the four Division Series went the distance (and none were sweeps). Both League Championship Series went six games. And the World Series went seven, for the first time in nine years. Oh, and I even picked the World Series winner, Cardinals in 7, even if I did it because Rangers officials demanded that I pick against them.

Five who helped themselves: 1. Pujols. I'm not saying it makes a difference in his final free-agent price, but a great postseason reminded all of us how good he really is.

2. John Mozeliak. You think Cardinals fans will finally admit that it was a good idea to trade Colby Rasmus to help this team win now?

3. Mike Napoli. The Angels traded this guy for Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays then traded this guy for Frank Francisco. The Rangers will not be trading him.

4. Ryan Braun. MVP voting includes only the regular season, and not the postseason. But anyone who chose Braun over Matt Kemp in the National League race had to be happy to see him hit .405 with a 1.182 OPS in October.

5. David Freese. He was the best story of the month, the hometown kid who quit baseball after high school, and came back to become the World Series MVP. Now everyone knows him.

Five who hurt themselves: 1. C.J. Wilson. He's still going to get overpaid on the free-agent market, but imagine how much he might have gotten if he'd had a good October, instead of a lousy one.

2. CC Sabathia. He's still going to get a great new contract, too, but imagine how much he might have gotten if his postseason ERA was 1.23, instead of 6.23 (and if his waist size didn't expand just as fast).

3. Cliff Lee. The team he left went to the World Series without him. And the team he couldn't beat in Game 2, after his teammates gave him a 4-0 lead, went on to win the World Series.

4. Alex Rodriguez. Two years ago, he had a nice October and shed the label of postseason choker. This year, he went 2-for-18 against the Tigers and appeared on the back page of the New York Post as one of the Three Stooges (along with Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira).

5. Tony La Russa (for about 48 hours). I'm guessing Cardinals fans will now totally forgive him for the phone/noise/bullpen mess from Game 5. He's now the guy who has won two World Series in St. Louis, to go with the one he won in Oakland. Still one of the very best managers in the game -- in the history of the game, that is.


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