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Winter Meetings 2011: Albert Pujols Flirtation With Marlins Shows It's All About Money, Not Tradition

Buster Olney is comparing it to when LeBron James left the city of Cleveland in a state of shock and sorrow. Certainly it would be difficult for many to comprehend the idea of Albert Pujols wearing anything but a St. Louis Cardinals uniform. But the reality is that the Miami Marlins are opening up their pocketbook this winter and are finding takers for their millions. It happens every year in every league. Why should we expect anything different.

Albert Pujols is the greatest hitter in recent baseball history. He’s worth more than any other player and brings instant credibility (and tremendous power) to any line-up. The franchise who signs him will reap the dividends for years at the ticket counter, in merch sales and with a face that everyone can recognize. In other words, Pujols anchors a team.

So Pujols is also well aware that a team makes their money from his image and performance, which means he’s going to expect them to pony up as well. Only baseball writers and fans have the time and room to think about things like baseball tradition. Only fans are concerned with whether a player finishes his career wearing certain colors. There’s only one color in free agency and it’s green. If you think that’s different for LeBron or Albert, you’re fooling yourself.

Olney writes, “Keep in mind, too, that if Pujols takes the plunge into Miami, he will be looking at the greatest earning potential of his lifetime, between salary and endorsements, and even if Loria’s whole experiment blows up, Pujols will be inoculated. He’ll get his money, he’ll presumably get a full no-trade clause, and he’ll dictate exactly where he will be traded. Think about what happened to Alex Rodriguez and the Texas Rangers — after the grand experiment failed, A-Rod forced his way to the New York Yankees, where he has made more money.”

A-Rod got a bad reputation from his financial dealings over the last several years, but no one should be able to knock him for the choices he’s made. These players are simply doing what any of us would do if given the chance to make as much money as we could in a few short years that a playing career allows. Thinking about anything else is a luxury once the money is in place.