God’s will in Albert Pujols’ baseball contract

14 12 2011

I don’t have any problem with Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals.  It’s his choice — he was a free agent, and he was allowed to choose where he wanted to play.  Obviously there are numerous variables to consider, such as who you want to play for, what each city is like, the financial offer, your potential teammates, etc.  Each player gets to determine what variables have priority (which seems to usually be the amount of money when talking about professional athletes).

But what bothers me about Pujols’ signing with the Angels is this story from his wife.  Read for yourself:

Albert Pujols’ wife Deidre, in an interview with a radio station with ties to the former St. Louis Cardinals slugger, said the couple was prepared to take less money to stay in St. Louis, but were greatly disappointed when the team initially offered him a five-year deal.

Thursday, Albert Pujols signed a 10-year, $254 million offer with the Los Angeles Angels that contained no deferred money, as well as a 10-year personal services contract following that deal. The Cardinals’ last offer to Pujols was for 10 years and $210 million, with $30 million deferred. …

Deidre Pujols, speaking with interviewer Sandi Brown, who is her friend, said the couple initially had no plans to ever leave St. Louis or the Cardinals, the only team the first baseman had ever played for.

“When it all came down, I was mad. I was mad at God because I felt like all the signs that had been played out through the baseball field, our foundation, our restaurant, the Down Syndrome Center, my relationships, my home, my family close,” Deidre Pujols told the station. “I mean, we had no reason, not one reason, to want to leave. People were deceived by the numbers.”

She indicated the key moment was the Cardinals’ initial offer of five years and $130 million.

“When you have somebody say ‘We want you to be a Cardinal for life’ and only offer you a five-year deal, it kind of confused us,” Deidre Pujols said. “Well, we got over that insult and felt like Albert had given so much of himself to baseball and into the community … we didn’t want to go through this again.”

Deidre Pujols told the station the negative reaction in St. Louis over her husband’s decision to sign with the Angels has been striking.

“Albert has never lied. People are like ‘Oh, we thought we knew who he was.’ Well, we thought we knew who they were,” she told the station.

“The city of St. Louis has absolutely been deceived and I have never seen hatred spread so fast and I understand why,” she added. “Let me say that Albert and I never, not one time, ever made plans to leave this city.”

Deidre Pujols also said she had no ill will toward the Cardinals or owner Bill DeWitt and that she understands the fans’ frustration with her husband’s decision.

I understand that Albert Pujols wanted a 10-year contract, which would take him to retirement age in baseball.  But to be insulted by a five-year offer of $130 million is crazy.  That’s $26 million a year!  And reportedly the Cardinals made several later offers, including a 10-year offer mentioned above, for “only” $210 million.

I’d heard a while back from “inside sources” that Pujols wanted to be the highest paid player in Major League Baseball.  Most teams are unable to offer such a contract, and it’s dubious whether doing so is a good strategy for building a balanced team (unless you’re the Yankees and can afford a $200+ million payroll).  The Rangers can tell you about how their record-breaking $250 million signing of Alex Rodriguez worked out — they finished last each year with the highest-paid player, then started contending after he left.

It just seems to be poor taste for Pujols’ wife to bad-mouth the Cardinals organization for “insulting” them with an offer of $26 million a year.  That would’ve made him the 3rd-highest paid player — which he still will be with his new contract.  Apparently the Cardinals didn’t want to pay that much when Albert will be over 40, and I don’t blame them for that.

She said it “confused” them to get a 5-year offer when they wanted to remain with the Cardinals for life, and that Albert virtually pleaded with the Cardinals to make it possible for him to commit the rest of his career and beyond to the Cardinals.  The thing is, the Cardinals claim to have made the offer, both for 9 and 10 years.  The issue really isn’t confusing at all, and these people know it.  It all comes down to the money.  The Cardinals didn’t want to pay that much, and Pujols wanted all he could get.

I’m surprised she basically admitted that they wanted to stay with the Cardinals for all reasons except that they wanted more money — well, and more long-term security, although even with “only” $130 million (the 5-year deal), there is a LOT of long-term security.  If you can’t live the rest of your life on that, then something is wrong…

After the signing, Albert Pujols said, “To tell you the truth, it wasn’t about the money. … It was about the commitment.”  The Angels didn’t defer any salary, and they offered a 10-year post-playing employment with the club.  So there was an extended commitment.  But the Cardinals have already paid Albert over $117 million for the first half of his career, which is considerable commitment to him so far, and there’s clearly a commitment to winning.  And Pujols shouldn’t have trouble finding stuff to do after he retires from baseball.  With all the money he will have, what can he not do?  Albert also had said the Cardinals management made it sound like business (which is it), while the Angels owner was warm and personable.  So he’s going to alienate most of his fans because he didn’t like his boss?  One thing Pujols may not realize is that St. Louis is probably the only team he could still be heavily supported even when he’s “washed-up” and overpaid in his last years.  We’ll see how it works out for him…

Lastly, I’m kinda bothered that she was mad at God, saying “all the signs” were there to stay except the money.  I’m not sure what they were praying for…  I mean, if you feel you should stay, but a 5-year deal at $26 million a year is a sign that you shouldn’t stay?  Or a 10-year $210 million deal?  I just don’t understand…


Josh Hamilton’s story

28 10 2010

Josh Hamilton wants to share his testimony… and he has an incredible one.  He went from a “can’t miss” baseball prospect — picked #1 and signed for $3.96 million — to being so lost in drugs and alcohol that he didn’t know where he was and wanting to die.  But he found Jesus Christ and turned his life around.   It’s a great story.  Now he’s playing in the World Series with the Texas Rangers, but that’s not what’s most important in his life.

Hamilton finds redemption in faith, sharing


pro athletes helping with Haiti crisis

27 01 2010

I just heard of a great story that happened shortly after the earthquake in Haiti.  Instead of paraphrasing, I’ll quote from the source.  This is from Jon Wertheim’s tennis mailbag at the Sports Illustrated website.  It shows what athletes and celebrities can accomplish if they will put forth the effort.

Isn’t it surprising, Jon? Roger Federer only came up with the “Hit for Haiti” idea on Saturday morning. Television only advertised it on Saturday afternoon and evening, and the papers the next morning. I was there and we had a great time. It is quite astounding that they were able to organize it in one day — and good on people for coming. Laver was full capacity and it still surprises me, even with the realization that Down Under is a sports-mad society. Props for Tennis Australia, players and fans. A chunk of change was donated, too.
— Deepak, Melbourne

Before we can get caught up in match results and general tennis theater from Melbourne, let’s take a moment to reflect on Hit for Haiti, an exhibition held at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday. Thanks to tennis’ modest stature, the time difference, the NFL playoffs, Gilbert Arenas, etc. this didn’t get nearly enough attention, at least in the U.S. But here we are, only two weeks into the season, and already, this is on my short list for Sports Story of the Year.

The Cliffs notes version: Federer sees the Haiti disaster on the news. “Let’s do something.” He fires off texts to players from Rafael Nadal to Andy Roddick to Novak Djokovic to Serena Williams. Tennis Australia makes the court available for an impromptu benefit on Sunday — the day before a Grand Slam begins. Jim Courier agrees to be chair umpire. Through a quick publicity blast — thanks, technology! — a capacity crowd pays $10 to watch. There is no corporate sponsor or tie-in. This is not the “foundation benefit,” whereby you pay your buddies an appearance, hold a lavish party and give the “proceeds” to charity. This was not some slickly packaged event run by a management agency. The alphabet soup of agencies didn’t get involved and make sure no one logos were bigger than the other and their name came first on the self-congratulatory press release. Mary Carillo used the word “organic.”

Also note the cause here: There are no Haitian players on tour, no event in Haiti, no Haitian sponsor, no ulterior motive. This is simply: Something horrible happened on the other side of the world, we recognize that and we want to use our platform to help. And note which players showed. Next time you rip “ill-tempered Serena” or “selfish Djokovic,” keep this event in mind.

Just a great day for the sport, a great showing from the top players starting with Federer, a great indication of what can happens when tennis cuts through the in-fighting and everyone works for a greater cause. At the risk of getting carried away, events like this ought to convince the players that, when they work together, they have the power, the leverage and capacity to cut through the tennis clutter and take charge.

That makes me feel good inside.  Here are famous athletes who take the time for a worthy cause.  They didn’t get paid for it, and it surely interrupted their normal training and preparation before a Grand Slam event.  Fans gladly paid $10 each to watch this (and I would’ve, too), and it sold out.  The seating capacity there is 16,820, so that’s quite a bit of money raised in a short time.

If only other celebrities / athletes would do stuff like this!  I’m sure some do, but I don’t hear about much.  All they have to do is make themselves available for some entertainment for a few hours and they can raise thousands of dollars for a charitable cause.  It was also quite generous of the stadium to open a day early, which surely meant a lot more cleaning and preparation before one of the year’s biggest tournaments.

FYI, the YouTube link was broken in the article when I read it, so if it still is, here’s the link: Hit for Haiti.

What’s easier — win a tennis match or make a free throw?

31 07 2009

What is easier to do — win a tennis match or make a free throw in basketball?  The answer may already be obvious, but let’s ramp up the difficulty.  Suppose the tennis match is a best-of-5 sets match, meaning it will last anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.  And suppose the tennis match is against the best professional tennis players in the world.  Now which would be easier?

That comparison may seem silly, but I came across a statistic and want to share it, because it shows the degree to which Roger Federer has dominated tennis.  Look at these two stats:

* The best career free throw shooting percentage is 90.4, by Mark Price.

* At Wimbledon and the U.S. Open — two of the four majors — Roger Federer is 96-9 in his career.  That’s a winning percentage of 91.4.

Think about that.  Federer is more likely to win a Wimbledon or U.S. Open match than any NBA player ever has been to make a free throw!  And surely you would agree that winning a tennis match is much harder than making a free throw.  Not only do you have to hit hundreds (if not thousands) of quality shots per match, but you have an opponent who is trying to make it as difficult as possible for you.

If we look at Federer’s stats in those tournaments since 2003, it gets even better: he is 86-2, which is 97.7 percent.  That’s dominating the sport.

Another statistic that boggles the mind is that Federer has reached 21 consecutive semifinals.  That means he never loses early in a tournament (even the time he had mono, he made it to the semis).  The next best streak is 10 consecutive by Ivan Lendl.  For more perspective, Pete Sampras’ longest streak was 3, and Andre Agassi’s longest streak was 4.  That shows just how consistent Federer has been.

Now that Federer has won the most Majors and the career Grand Slam, he’s being called the greatest of all time.  These statistics only further the point.

don’t compare Roger Federer to Tiger Woods

23 06 2009

It seems like a lot of analysts are comparing tennis great Roger Federer to golf great Tiger Woods.   They both excel at their respective sport, and they both have won 14 majors.   They both might be considered the greatest of all-time in their sport.   But that’s where the comparison should end.  Federer has tied the all-time record, but Tiger has not.  And there just is no comparison between tennis and golf.  That’s not to put either down.  I realize golf is really difficult to excel at.  But it isn’t as difficult as tennis.   And a major difference is that you don’t have someone who is trying to exploit your weaknesses to defeat you.  In golf, it’s you against the course — no one can make you play worse.  In tennis, your opponent has the opportunity to make you lose.  (I could go on…)

Let me show you something Tiger Woods said a few years ago about Federer’s accomplishments:

What [Federer] has done in tennis, I think, is far greater than what I’ve done in golf. ~ Tiger Woods, about Roger Federer, after being named 2006 Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press

Maybe Tiger was just taking the high-road, but I agree with his assessment.  Anyway, my point is that the two sports shouldn’t be compared.  If your discussion stays within the realm of one sport, then you don’t have this situation.

While I’m ranting, what’s up with the producers at NBC?  Let me explain.   Recently Federer won the French Open, completing his career Grand Slam and tying Pete Sampras’ all-time record of Grand Slams won.  It was historic.  Federer said it was his biggest win, except perhaps his first Grand Slam.  So it was huge.   And his chief rival, Rafael Nadal, didn’t make it to the final, despite his usual dominance on clay.  Clearly, this day was all about Federer and what this win means to him and to tennis.  So can anyone explain why after the match, NBC was showing the 2008 Wimbledon final, which was one of the most painful losses Federer ever had to endure?   Were they trying to ruin the moment for Federer’s fans?  I don’t get it…   I realize that was arguably the greatest match of all-time, but that’s not the time to show it.

Nadal’s coach making things worse

1 06 2009

World #1 tennis player Rafael Nadal just lost his match first ever at the French Open (Roland Garros).   He had been 31-0, and had won the championship the past four years.  That’s a phenomenal run, and it was a huge upset that he lost to the 23rd seed, Robin Soderling.  Actually when I first saw the score, I figured Nadal was injured or exhausted, but I later saw the last part of the match, and Soderling just outplayed him.  Soderling had one of those matches where he was “in the zone”.  It was awesome.

I could say a whole lot about the significance of the match for Nadal and the rest of the players, but I’m going to focus on some things said after the match by Nadal and his coach “Uncle Toni”.   Toni called the spectators “stupid” for supporting Soderling and occasionally booing Nadal.  And Nadal said it was sad that the crowd had been supporting Soderling during the match.  That did seem odd, but perhaps they were just excited about the possibility of a historic upset.

Toni Nadal had this to say: “They say it themselves and it’s true, the Parisian crowd is pretty stupid.  I think the French don’t like it when a Spaniard wins.  Wanting someone to lose is a slightly conceited way of amusing yourself.   They show the stupidity of people who think themselves superior.”

He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, even if it is judging others’ intentions (which he doesn’t know).  But I want to make a few points about why it’s not in his best interest to say such things.

1) Where was all his complaining in the previous 31 matches that Nadal won there?  Did the spectators just suddenly get stupid at this one match?  I never heard him gripe about this when Nadal was winning.  It sure makes him sound like a sore loser.

2) Fans are free to support whoever they want. They won’t always support the top seed or expected winner.  That’s just part of sports — there are people who root for you and people who root for your opponent (which is effectively rooting against you).  If you can’t handle that, you will have a rough time.

I don’t know the background for why Nadal’s coach said such things.  But ironically, he’s only making things worse for next year, if the fans remember.  If you want people to cheer for you, it’s generally not a good idea to call them stupid.

Where do missed opportunities lead?

20 05 2009

High school pitching prospect Matt Harrington turned down a $4.9 million contract to pitch in the major leagues, and now he makes $11.50 an hour.  How could that happen?  Click here for the full story.

Can you imagine?  He was drafted 5 times, sometimes in the first round, and for various reasons, he never signed.   Some fault goes to his agent, but at some point you have to take whatever you can get — especially when it’s still a LOT of money.   So obviously he really missed out on the big bucks and the chance to live his dream.   I suppose that’s what he gets for being greedy…

But then again, we shouldn’t be quick to judge.  I know, playing baseball for a living for millions of dollars sure sounds like a great life, but who knows where that would’ve led him as a person?   Perhaps that course of events has changed him and put him on a better long-term path than he would’ve chosen amidst the fame and fortune.   We don’t know.  As Gandalf said, “Even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

Unfortunately the locals around Matt Harrington and his family didn’t see it that way.   The family was ridiculed so often that they moved to another state.  Fortunately the pitcher was able to make peace with his past and move on.  (In case you didn’t read the article, he still became a millionaire through an insurance policy on his arm.)   His dad still struggles with what happened.  Hopefully he can someday forgive himself.

Sometimes we don’t know why things happen.   And sometimes bad things happen — whether our fault or not — and while it’s not fun to go through such times, they can change the path we’re on and make us a better person.   The Bible speaks of this in Romans 8:28, that God will work all things for good for those who love Him.   I’ve seen this in my life, where the worst times of my life now serve as cornerstones for who I am today.

So my point is that we shouldn’t be quick to judge our circumstances, because we don’t know what impact they will have on us.  And of course we shouldn’t be quick to judge others, either…