By Christiaan DeFranco
Should the best position player in baseball — who likely will go down as one of the best hitters of all time — be the highest paid player in the game?
Well, I'm not going to say he shouldn't. Albert Pujols deserves to get paid.
Reports say his asking price to re-sign with the Cardinals is 10 years, $300 million. St. Louis reportedly has offered him something in the range of eight years at $18-23 million per.
When you consider his value, in on-field production as well as revenue for the Cardinals and Major League Baseball, Pujols warrants a lucrative contract, perhaps a record-setting one. But when you consider other factors — and his manager's recent comments that Pujols is being pressured by the players union to set the bar — maybe a decade-long, $300-million mega-deal isn't the right course of action.
Even if La Russa, by ripping the union, is just trying to ease his star player's mind and show him he has his back, the point remains the same: There is more to life, and to a career, than money.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not sneezing at a big payday. But what do you want to be known for? Alex Rodriguez is one of the best ever, but he'll be remembered for his outrageous contracts (as well as his prima-donna image, of course) rather than his talent.
And it's clear that A-Rod — throughout his career, with every strikeout, every errant throw, every pop-up with runners on, every O-fer in the postseason — has felt the weight of that money as he has tried to live up to it.
Perhaps Pujols should take a cue from Cliff Lee, who turned down more cash elsewhere to return to the Phillies. He wanted to win and he felt that being with the Phillies gave him the best shot, plus he loves it here and his wife and family do too. This organization and this intensely competitive city felt like home.
"Once you hit a certain amount, enough is enough," Lee said, after he was asked why he took less money to sign in Philadelphia.
And isn't that the point? Cliff Lee isn't starving, and his grandchildren won't either. Once you reach a certain stratosphere, isn't it less about money and more about championships and legacy and greatness?
Isn't it about immortality?
Follow assistant sports editor Christiaan DeFranco on Twitter here @cdefranco.