You would think the only player in Major League Baseball history to hit .300, have 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs for 10 consecutive seasons would be the highest-paid player in baseball — but he’s not.
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols isn’t even the highest-paid player on his team. That would be outfielder Matt Holliday, whose $120 million contract he signed last year is $20 million more than what Pujols received in 2004.
Don’t get me wrong, $100 million is a lot of money. But when it comes to professional sports, and especially baseball, Pujols is vastly underpaid for the numbers he puts up.
The fact that Hiroki Kuroda made more during the 2010 season than Pujols just doesn’t make sense. And that you just asked yourself who Hiroki Kuroda is, is my point exactly.
Now, maybe you’re thinking that the Cardinals just pulled a Bronx Bombers and have two of the highest-paid guys in the league — but Pujols isn’t even in the top 25 when it comes to his annual salary as of the end of the 2010 season.
That’s a little hard to wrap my head around, considering former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox said he would give Pujols $50 million a season.
Cox is not far off.
A good barometer of where Pujols stands is comparing him to New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. They both have put up consistent numbers over the years, except for income.
For the 2010 season, they put up somewhat similar numbers, with Pujols batting .042 higher with 12 more home runs and A-Rod having seven more RBIs.
Rodriguez’s annual salary for the 2010 season, $33 million, was more than double what Pujols made.
Pujols will creep a little closer to that $33 million because of the Cardinals exercising their option for 2011, which will put him at a base salary of $16 million for 2011. But still nowhere close to A-Rod status.
The Cardinals had offered Pujols a contract extension earlier in the year, which some baseball insiders reported to be in the vicinity of 10 years, $200 million, but Pujols respectfully declined.
And he was right to decline that. He knows what his value is, and the Cardinals are coming up short on their offer.
It’s like any other profession: If you are great at what you do, someone will pay you what you are worth.
It has been rumored that Pujols is looking for $300 million, but there is no way he’s going to get that, especially if he “wants to be a Cardinal forever,” like he says.
$300 million would be a little steep for a team whose payroll is just more than $93 million.
But that is the beauty of America and free agency: If you don’t like the offer, you can look somewhere else.
It won’t come down to that, though.
The Cardinals and Pujols will secretly negotiate during the season and work out a deal that satisfies both parties.
Prediction: 9 years, $262 million.