Who is the smartest owner in professional sports? Arte Moreno. Moreno has just landed the ultimate player in his sport for the past decade plus. Albert Pujols is currently the greatest player in baseball. Today the astute Los Angeles Angels agreed to pay him $250,000,000 over the next ten years. For the World Series Champs the St. Louis Cardinals not to sign this superstar player who hit three home runs to propel the Cards over the Texas Rangers, is for lack of a better word -- insane.
If you try and compare the overall stats of baseball's biggest salaried players, they are dwarfed by the stats of Pujols. Pujols has won the National League's most valuable player (MVP) award three times. He was a key factor in the St. Louis Cardinals World Series victory. He has 445 home runs in his eleven seasons of play. He has an on base plus slugging (OPS) average of 1.037 out of a possible 1.0, which during these past eleven years is the best in baseball. Here he is second in history only to the legendary Babe Ruth.
Did Moreno pay too much money? Hardly. This is not a one shot payment; it is a payout over ten years. Thus its value, if it were to be funded in an annuity today, is less at present value dollars.
The Cardinals should have paid Pujols the extra money. The television value alone it would have helped fund his excess salary. Was everyone asleep at the wheel in the Cardinals front office? And just how are the fans of one of the four most storied franchises in all of baseball (Yankees, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Red Sox) going to react? For their loyalty, they have been punished. Here in Pujols you had one of the two greatest players (Stan Musial the other) in the fabled history of the St. Louis Cardinals to be let go by ultimate stupidity.
The latest reported offers on the table for Pujol before Moreno swooped the competitors were around 210 million dollars plus. Those offers projected to a difference of about 3-4 million dollars per year from what the Angels agreed too. For the past five years, Pujols was the most underpaid superstar in the game and never complained. The Cardinals are not wanting for money. They built a new stadium in the last decade. Even though Pujols' past season might be his worst in recent memory, if you look at the last third of the season he again became baseball's most productive player and at precisely the right time, thus propelling the Cardinals to another World Series win against all odds. Congratulations, St. Louis, you just let baseball's greatest prize get away for 30-40 million dollars in the next ten years.
This decision makes even less sense when you factor the designated hitter (DH) rule into it. Cardinals' front office: Are you aware that it is only a matter of time before the National League installs the DH rule? Why? Because the great hitters have greater longevity if they are not in the field on an every day basis. The American League figured it out years ago. So did other professional leagues including the Japanese Nippon professional baseball league.
As soon as Bud 'in my opinion Clueless' Selig realizes that the DH gives longer more productive careers to stars like David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, etc. etc. who make large contributions to winning and keeping the fans coming to the ballpark, it will no longer be an option. Even when Pujols plays less in the field in the future, he still will still be gigantic at the plate. Baseball's power hitters are the biggest draws to the game. The Angels realized the value of Pujols as a great power and clutch hitter that can be used as a DH as well as his talent in the field. He will attract baseball fans at probably a higher ticket price who want to see a legend make history. Let us not forget the continued growth of television revenue and fan attendance that adds to the growing value of the top baseball franchises. Undoubtedly Pujols will seal the multi-million dollar money from the television and media contracts alone.
Now if Moreno can just purge his manager's stubborn ego (getting rid of Mike Napoli and continuing to push ineffective players like Brandon Wood, Jeff Mathis and an overall weak bullpen), the Angels will become the cream of baseball elite, particularly if their starting rotation continues to produce. Now that they also acquired C.J. Wilson, the pitcher for the Rangers, the Angels will probably be the best team in baseball unless there is an unforeseen injury problem. Just think of other players who will want to sign with a long-term contender and overall winner for many years to come.
Dan Patrick on his show on December 8, 2011, made an apt statement: you do not want to play poker with Arte Moreno. Congratulations to the superstar proprietor who put his money where his mouth is. It is about time the fans can see the contribution of a brilliant owner.
This post has been modified since its original publication.