>Wednesday Lunch: Jeter or Pujols – Who Deserves the Bank?

Posted: February 2, 2011 in mlb
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By Nick Gallaudet

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Major League Baseball offseason has not been particularly exciting this year. Aside from Cliff Lee’s surprise signing with Philadelphia and Adrián Beltré picking the Texas Rangers, there have not been many big names switching clubs. The main storyline of this offseason was the Yankees and their effort to re-sign SS Derek Jeter. Jeter was not the only big name to create a stir demanding a boatload of money, however. Recently, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, widely considered the best hitter in the game, asked for a 10 year, $300 million contract. At first glance, these situations are similar; the face of a historical franchise asking for a raise; Jeter has five rings and Pujols has one ring and three MVPs; and both are heroes in their city and fan favorites. The reality, however, is that these situations are very different. Jeter is 36 and towards the end of his career while Pujols is 31 and coming off one of his most productive seasons ever. Now, with that information, we’re going to play a little guessing game. I think one of these players should have gotten the money they were asking for (Jeter asked for a 4-6 year deal for $22-24 million/year), and one of these players is gouging his franchise. Conventional wisdom says pay the superstar that is still posting eye-popping numbers, but my wisdom has never been regarded as conventional. Pujols is holding St. Louis hostage and Jeter deserved the $100 million-plus contract and here’s why…

Derek Jeter was the captain of the teams that made the New York Yankees relevant again. The Yankees of the 1980’s and early ‘90’s were not what baseball fans had come to expect from Yankee teams. Those teams had the longest absence from the playoffs of any Yankees teams since 1921. Jeter was part of the young crop of talent that emerged in the mid-‘90’s that led the Yankees to four World Series titles in five years and made the franchise competitive again. Jeter made the Yankees relevant to a whole new generation of baseball fan and made the team millions of dollars in the process. The contributions made to the franchise by Jeter are incalculable. The fact that Jeter has done more for that franchise than any player has done for any other franchise today, coupled with the Yankees incredible worth and payroll means the man should have been paid.

 

The Yankees lead the league in payroll every year, tallying $200 million in salaries like it’s nothing, overpay overrated free agents, and generally throw money around like they’re playing Monopoly. Why did Yankees management pick this battle to fight? Why did they decide now was a good time to tighten their belts and cutback spending? Jeter earned the right to ask for that kind of money from the Yankees. If it was any other team, this would be a different story, but with a team that spends the way the Yankees spend, tying up $100 million for four years for a legend is not going to cripple the franchise. It is no secret that Jeter is destined for third base, the outfield, or the DH slot in the next couple years, but he didn’t deserve to get low-balled by the Yankees this offseason. Now, I know it’s ridiculous for me to defend a man who was disappointed with his three-year $51 million contract, but truly, the Yankees had no reason not to pay the man.

 

The Pujols situation is a lot different. Like the Yankees, St. Louis is one of the premier franchises in the league, but unlike the Yankees, they don’t print money. There is no question that Pujols deserves to be the highest paid player in the game, but demanding a 10 year contract is excessive. The Cardinals actually have a budget to work with, granted, it’s not as bad as Minnesota or Oakland, and cannot afford to tie up $30 million when Pujols is 40 years old and comes back down to Earth. Paying Pujols $30 million for the next four years is completely justifiable, but him demanding that much over ten years is selfish. No player in the post-steroids era is worth that much money after their 35th birthday. On top of that, it is impossible to pay one player A-Rod kind of money and compete if you’re not Boston or New York – just ask the Rangers. Baseball is the epitome of a team game: Pujols could hit 80 homeruns a season, but if there is no one on base when he hits those homeruns, and his pitchers are giving up eight runs a game, they’re going to lose.

Up to this point, Pujols has been a total class act and the guy goes out and performs offensively and defensively every day, rarely gets hurt, and puts up amazing numbers every year. You could not find someone who had more respect for Pujols than I did, but by him holding the Cardinals hostage with this contract dispute, saying he would veto any proposed trade, I can’t help but be turned off by his selfishness. He has given the Cardinals until the start of Spring Training to get his new deal in place, with 2011 being the final year of his current contract. It is really hard for me to believe that someone who has shown so much class, playing in one of the best baseball towns in America, is going to risk alienating his hometown fans out of greed. I understand the desire to be paid according to your skill level, but to ask to be paid like that when you will be well past your prime for a team that can’t afford it and has been nothing but loyal to you is disappointing. I really hope somebody lets Pujols know how unreasonable his demands are and he can get back to blowing up pitchers, not his bank account.

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