Fan reaction: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals play chicken with contract negotiations

Albert Pujols(notes) doesn't want any distractions during spring training. That's why the day position players report to spring training is the deadline Major League Baseball's best player has set for signing a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. Feb. 18 is when Cardinals position players report to Jupiter, Fla. for spring drills.

The Cardinals front office isn't saying anything yet either. The Sporting News reports both sides are keeping the negotiations out of the media until something official is signed on the dotted line, if it comes to that point.

Who will blink first in this game of financial chicken? The Cardinals have built their entire franchise on Pujols. Even if they have to mortgage Busch Stadium to keep him it would make sense to do so.

The next three weeks will have daily looks at how the Cardinals approach the Pujols situation. The first baseman recently said he'll invoke his no trade clause should St. Louis want to try to deal him and make some money for the trade.

No one is talking specifics as to what the Cardinals are possibly offering their first baseman. But reports and rumors are leaking out. Supposedly, Pujols and his agent are asking for 10 years and $300 million according to ESPN. Higher paying clubs such as the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies are already set at first base.

Other teams can still try to get Pujols. American League teams could always use a designated hitter, but paying mega millions of dollars for a guy just to hit would be a waste of a baseball player's talents. They could always convert Pujols to an outfielder which may actually make sense.

Lance Berkman, who signed a one year deal for $8 million will be playing in the outfield instead of his usual first base like he did with Houston. He said it would be easier on his ailing knees.

As Pujols gets older, first base may become a harder proposition to play. Should he succumb to injuries in the next three to four years teams may consider moving him to another position now so as to avoid the prospects of having him sit out a year while still being on a payroll.

Surely higher paying clubs would be able to use the best player in Major League Baseball somehow.

If last year's signing of Matt Holliday and then the high profile contract with Berkman are any indication, St. Louis may have already decided what to do. Holliday signed for $120 million, already the richest contract paid to a Cardinals player after Pujols' original deal in 2004. Then Berkman was signed to a lucrative deal in December.

Out of respect for his teammates, Pujols doesn't want contract negotiations to drag into the season. Even though Pujols will likely be signed to the largest baseball contract ever, he's still showing class by not letting his mega bucks be a distraction on the field.

As a realistic Cardinals' fan, I understand why Pujols wants more money. Not making an issue about money on the field is respectful even though in the backs of everyone's minds they know he's going to have big money in 2012. But everyone knows the business of baseball. The reality is really good players often go to higher paying teams.

That's where Pujols is likely to be headed—a higher paying team. As Cardinals fans, we should cherish this year and hope the team can put another World Series trophy in the case this November before Pujols departs.

William Browning is a fan of Missouri State University athletics after living in the area 15 years. Born in St. Louis, he is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan and a transplanted KC Chiefs fan. He currently resides in Branson.

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Updated Monday, Jan 31, 2011