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Saturday, March 5, 2011

The MLB Headline 2011 Season - The Tale of Two First Basemen

The biggest story this year is the tale of two 1st basemen.  One has found a home, and the other will spend 2011 possibly preparing for a new one.

As Adrian Gonzalez prepared to arrive at his new home across the country from where he grew up, San Diego, he told himself, “Focus on your game.  Prepare for the season like always, and the wins will take care of themselves.   The trade the Red Sox made for Adrian Gonzalez will no doubt have an effect on the wins (and loses for their opponents).  Just ask Sox DH David Ortiz, “Now with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, this team got even more dangerous. 

GM Theo Epstein restocked the Sox after a dismal 2010 season which saw them out of the playoffs and in 3rd place behind the Yankees and the Rays.  With the addition of lefty swinger Gonzalez, they got themselves a seven year veteran who has hit 30 or more home runs in each of his last four seasons, driven in 99 runs or more during the same period and a swing made for Fenway Park.  The Sox now boast a lineup with five solid All Stars in Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Ortiz, and Youkilis.  Not to mention Gonzalez’s work ethic, and you see why the Sox are the American League favorite to reach the World Series. 

Across the Midwest in the NL, the headline is Albert Pujols, not because of the sluggers propensity to hit the ball hard and drive in runs, but because after the 2011 season, Pujols could be the biggest star without a home.  Already a well publicized contract negotiation, the Cardinals and Pujols seem destined to make headlines throughout the season.  And why not.  Pujols is arguably one of the greatest hitters of all time.  At the prime age of 31, Pujols has 408 home runs, three MVP awards, the 2001 ROY, nine All Star appearances, 10 consecutive years of 100 rbi’s or more, and a career .331 hitter.  Imagine taking the Bambino, Hammerin’ Hank or Teddy Ballgame off their teams in their prime.  That’s the impact Puljos has with the Cardinals.

But his impact of becoming a free agent goes beyond the diamond, and into the owner’s pockets changing the financial structure of the game.    Reports are Pujols is asking for  10 years worth an estimated $300 million.  (Making him the highest paid player.)  The Cardinals are thought to be offering around $25 million for 8 years.  White Sox GM Kenny Williams stated, “For the game's health, I think it's asinine, ($30 million per year.) We’ve gotten to the point of no return. Something has to happen to bring sanity back to the game.

With Major League’s CBA expiring in December, talks between players and owners could get heated.  Certainly, the focus will be hard salary cap.  The biggest impact of Albert Pujols’ career on baseball history might not be what he has done on the field, but what is written in his next contract. 

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