UPDATE (2/14/2011 at 11:35 a.m.): Albert Pujols has decided to push his deadline back by one day to Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. ET. Cardinals shouldn’t read too much into this. The only reason Pujols extended the deadline was to ensure he didn’t overshadow Cardinal legend Stan Musial. Musial is scheduled to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama on Tuesday.
Original Post (2/14/2011 at 10:00 a.m.): Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that an anonymous source has informed him Albert Pujols rejected the Cardinals latest (or first) contract proposal. The source went on to say that Pujols is expected formally announce his intentions to close negotiations on Tuesday. Barring any unexpected changes in events, talks won’t resume until after the season. There’s no word as to what the Cardinals might have offered.
While I understand Pujols’s motivation for ceasing contract talks, I think it’s foolish for him to think this won’t be a distraction. It’s going to be. This doesn’t just end because Pujols wants it to end. In fact, his reluctance to discuss the situation only fuels speculation. In fact, once he announces his intentions on Tuesday, the real fun for the media begins--if it hasn’t already. They’ll ask questions like: Are Pujols’s demands unreasonable? Is he putting himself ahead of the team by looking for A-Rod money? Where will he land if he becomes a free agent? What’s the extent of the potential backlash if he leaves? Is the relationship between Pujols and DeWitt beyond repair? Does Pujols really want to leave St. Louis? And so on… Every day, there will be a new story printed or posted that has a different angle on the situation. He’ll field multiple questions from mumerous reporters all asking him about his situation and intentions after the season. While Pujols has already stated that he doesn’t intend to answer said questions, he’ll have to get used to fielding and deflecting them.
Furthermore, the distraction won’t be limited to just Pujols. This situation has a wide-reaching impact on both his teammates and coaching staff as well. Daily, each one of them will be asked questions about the manner in which Pujols’s contract situation is affecting the team. While most of them will remain quiet, what happens if one of his teammates not only decides to anonymously speak to a reporter, but also makes disparaging remarks about the All-Star first baseman? Can you imagine the scandal and clubhouse turmoil? Talk about a distraction! While this scenario is unlikely, all it takes is one disgruntled teammate to magnify an already overblown situation.
Ultimately, Pujols needs to do what he feels is best for both himself and the team. He’s made his decision, and now he has to live with the consequences. As someone who has neither been, nor never will be in his position, I refuse to pass judgment. I only hope he’s considered all of the angles.