The Trouble with Pujols

April 3, 2011 by TommyT

This guy made only $24M last year Disclaimer:  I have been a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan from when I was a little boy in Buffalo, NY and discovered that the best player who shared my birthday was Bob Gibson.  So, my opinion may be slightly askew.

That may change at the end of the year when future Hall of Famer and St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols plays out his contract, becomes a free agent and walks away from one of the best baseball towns on this planet.

From my perspective, that would be reason enough to make me quit on my lifelong devotion.

I could talk about the same things I spoke last year during Joe Mauer’s negotiations with the Minnesota Twins.  Here’s what I said:

Joe’s age and his maturity and his accomplishments tell me that it would make sense to take the dollars and run to one of those cities (we know who they are so I won’t mention them) with deep enough pockets to give him a 10-year deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $200M.

The thing that many players don’t seem to think about is their own immortality.  They’re young, they’re gifted and they’re blessed.  And they’re not looking 20, 30, 40 or 100 years down the road.  Ripken and Gwynn were blessed to be playing for their hometown teams.  They saw how the fans responded to their ups and downs with support and adulation.

They stayed.

They stayed in Baltimore and San Diego.  They didn’t go for the big bucks.  They didn’t go for the store-bought championships.  They didn’t go for glamour and glitz.  They’ll be building statues to them for now and forever. They stayed.

Think the teams that can afford you will be doing that?  Think potential teammates A-Fraud and Tex will have statues built for them?  Yeah, me neither.

My advice to Joe:  Give Cal and Tony a call.  See what they have to say.  And then give immortality a shot.  You’ll be glad you did.

I am sure that Albert understands these arguments, and based on what Tony LaRussa has said, it is mostly the players’ union pressuring Albert to make sure he gets what he deserves:  The largest contract in baseball history.  That makes sense.

He should.  He really should go ahead and do that.  And because he’s looking at the economics of the situation, he needs to do more of an evaluation than just signing for the dollars.

About 10 years ago I was offered a 70% increase in salary in the world to move from the Baltimore area to San Francisco.  Even though that would have been a lot more raw dollars, I would actually have lost money in terms of how far my money would stretch.

Let’s base Albert’s salary on where he lives and the cost of living in St. Louis versus the cost of living in the bigger markets where he would be living.  I’ll use Sperling’s Best Places to live as the cost of living comparison site.

I’m going to assume that the only places he would be able to sign would be the big market teams, and I’ll use New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles (in other words, “the usual suspects”) as THE places that would be able to lure Pujols away.

The cost of living is much higher in those towns and I’m assuming that the bulk of those costs would be housing and taxes.  And because his roots and family are still in St. Louis those costs would be added to whatever he’s paying right now.  I’m assuming he wouldn’t uproot his family, but he just might.

New City Cost of Living Increase Salary in St. Louis Salary needed in new city
New York 105% $25,000,000 $51,250,000
Boston 99% $25,000,000 $49,750,000
Los Angeles 78% $25,000,000 $44,500,000
Chicago 37% $25,000,000 $34,250,000
Philadelphia 29% $25,000,000 $32,250,000
Atlanta 20% $25,000,000 $30,000,000

I am sure not one of these teams is willing to offer these kinds of dollars to the best hitter in baseball and one of the future all-time greats.  Albert is a smart man.  He just needs to look at the dollar for dollar analysis and compare apples to apples.

He’ll find by taking the money and running he’s actually losing money.

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