Let me start with this disclaimer: I am an admitted Albert Pujols apologist. I love everything about the guy. His performance on the field, the way he carries himself, his philanthropic contributions. Everything. So, as you read this piece about Pujols’ contract negotiations you can write it off. Or, you can love it and appreciate the logic. I believe you will do the second thing.
I’ll start by reminding everyone that we live in a different world than those of athletes. If we pass judgement because we can’t fathom the amount of money athletes make, we don’t really have a leg to stand on in the argument. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be the main issue many people have with Pujols and the contract negotiations. It would seem that most people are put off by Pujols’ rejection of $200 million. But why?
Pujols signed his current contract after the 2003 season. He would make $13.875 a year million for the next eight years. Pujols was coming off a .329/.403/.610 season in 2001, a .314/.394/.561 season in 2002, and a .359/.439/.667 season in 2003. That’s a pretty good start to a career, but no one could have known that Pujols would carry these types of number in every year of his career. $13.875 million a year seemed fair. But it quickly became clear that Pujols was the greatest player in the game. Yet, his salary was being outpaced by players like Ryan Howard, Mark Teixiera, and even Miguel Cabrera. Inferior players were making more than Pujols (inferior but still of All Star quality). Ryan Howard is making $25 million a year. Mark Teixeira is making $22.5 million a year. Miguel Cabrera is making $19 million a year. Pujols is better than all of them.
But Pujols played out his contract. He didn’t demand a trade to a team willing to pay him more immediately. He didn’t demand a new contract. He played it out. Now that it’s time for him to renegotiate, he is getting flak for wanting to see what he’s worth on the open market.
Last we heard, the Cardinals had reportedly offered something like eight years, $200 million. That equates to $25 million a year. Pujols was reportedly looking for ten years, $300 million. So he rejected $200 million. If any team is willing to pay him more, why shouldn’t he take it?
You’re working in an office making $40,000 a year. From everything you’ve heard, everyone acknowledges you as the best at what you do, including other companies. There are other employees, employees who are not as good as you, who make more. Say you find out a few of these employees within your own company and at other companies are making 44% more than you. That comes to roughly $57,000 and some change. Now you know other companies want you and are willing to pay you. Is there anything wrong with demanding say $67,000? You’re better, companies want you. It would seem the market would place at least that value on you. Now, let’s assume your own company offers you the $57,000 others are making who clearly are inferior in performance. Would anyone second guess your decision to test the market and see if you can in fact get the $67,000 elsewhere?
I know many of you may have stopped reading, shocked that I am using numbers with no baseball statistical relevance, but for those of you who continued on, you probably realized this is a simplified version of Pujols’ situation using similar percentages scaled back to what we in middle-class America can understand. When you look at it in terms of numbers we are familiar with, it doesn’t seem so bad. When you look at from a percentage standpoint, it doesn’t look so bad. Ryan Howard is making 44% more than Pujols per year. Pujols is better. He should be paid more than Howard. Pujols has asked to be paid 16.67% more than Howard. Pretty reasonable considering his performance over the years.
So, nothing Pujols has asked seems out of line. If you have issue with it, you simply have issue with contracts in baseball that have set the precedent. You cannot blame Pujols for what other teams chose to pay players like Howard, Teixeira, and Cabrera.
Now that I have blown your mind with numbers, go forth and praise Pujols, start a telethon to help him raise the money he should be earning, and bow at his feet. Or continue to dislike him because he turned down $200 million. I’ve said my piece.