The Negativity Train

Albert Pujols, a player pretty much considered a lock for the Hall of Fame once he retires, signed a contract with the Anaheim Angels worth $254 million over ten years (including a no-trade clause) this past week.  For a few moments after I read this news, I forgot that the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series this year.  I was so stunned over the contract and the fact that Pujols left St. Louis that I didn’t make the connection that the most recognizable Cardinal was leaving the nest not even two months after getting another ring with his team.

(A side note I found interesting. While researching to write this, I was reminded that Pujols didn’t win MVP in either of the NLCS or World Series in both 2006 and 2011.  Which has no reflection on his overall career; it just struck me interesting that other players came up bigger in the post-season than he did.)

I’m not one who usually harps on the terms of these contracts. I try not to compare MLB salaries to those in the real world because it really doesn’t make sense as the two have nothing in common.  But I have to admit that sitting here in my own kind of lousy situation it occurred to me that Pujols could give $2 million a piece to 25 different people and still have $200 million left after this contract is over and the enormity of that smacked me in the face.  (And his isn’t even the largest contract in MLB’s history. That honor goes to Slappy thanks to the New York Yankees.  ARod actually shows up twice in the top ten contracts in MLB, his contract with the Texas Rangers being third largest, with Pujols sitting between both of his at second.  Manny Ramirez’ Red Sox contract comes in 8th and the contract the Sox gave Adrian Gonzalez comes in 10th at seven years and $154 million.)

With the way the season ended for the Red Sox and then the way the off-season began, baseball is already on thin ice with me.  Albert Pujols citing his feelings of being unappreciated by the Cardinals didn’t make me feel any better.  I suppose I understand that in his mind the Cardinals not focussing solely on his contract negotiations and, ultimately, not giving him everything he wanted made him feel unappreciated but it’s tough to garner sympathy for someone who accepts a 10 year $254 contract with a no-trade clause telling us a nine year $210 million contract with an option for a 10th year with the team he made his name with, won two World Series with and that has such a passionate, appreciative fan base, wasn’t good enough for him.  Like many other players before him, he went to the place that threw the most money (and guaranteed years) at him.

It’s crazy to say “I wouldn’t have gone for the extra money”.  I get that.  But to say “it wasn’t about the money” at all is just ridiculous.  Sure there were other factors but of course it was about the money.  Don’t keep saying that you wanted to stay with the Cardinals and then tell us you didn’t given all the circumstances.  Ultimately, like Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira and many before and after them, Pujols went where he wanted to go.

Who would have thought that the Pujols story wouldn’t be the most depressing story of the week? (And I do find it depressing.  Just once I would like a big name player to take a few less million dollars and stay with the team and fan base that he’s been with his entire career and say “I did it because I want to be here and another ten million on a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars won’t make that big a difference in my life”.)  But no…the National League wasn’t done kicking me in the teeth.

The positive result was triggered by elevated levels of testosterone in Braun’s system, the sources also told “Outside the Lines.” A subsequent, more comprehensive test revealed the testosterone was synthetic — not produced by Braun’s body.

Every individual naturally produces testosterone and a substance called epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1-to-1. In Major League Baseball, if the ratio comes in at 4-to-1 or higher during testing, a player is deemed to have tested positive. The sources did not indicate how high above the threshold Braun’s sample tested.

To affirm the results and strengthen its case, MLB asked the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Montreal, which conducts its testing, to perform a secondary test to determine whether the testosterone spike resulted from natural variations within Braun’s body or from an artificial source. The test indicated the testosterone was exogenous, meaning it came from outside his body.

So this isn’t just MLB and their yahoos doing some testing here. After the initial test came back positive they sent it to the World Anti-Doping Agency (in what I assume was an attempt to prove their test wrong…Braun is a member of Bud Selig’s team) and it was verified that the testosterone wasn’t something his body naturally produced.  Maybe Braun has a good excuse and, as he put it, the story is “BS”.  That remains to be seen. Right now, all I know is that the reigning National League MVP has tested positive for some kind of PED some seven years after MLB started officially testing for it.  That’s depressing as all hell to me.

Now Albert Pujols fleeing St Louis for ridiculous amounts of money isn’t even close to being as bad as Braun knowing he was facing a 50 game suspension for cheating when he accepted his National League MVP Award this year.  I get that.  But they both make me sit back and wonder why I devote so much of my time and emotion to this game.  I always hated the line in “Fever Pitch” when the kid says to Jimmy Fallon “You’ve always loved the Red Sox, but have they ever loved you back?” because there was always a part of me (especially focussed on the 2004 team) where I felt that even in just a little way they did love us back.  And even if they didn’t, I wasn’t entirely convinced that was part of the deal.  We never asked to be loved back, we just gave our unconditional love.  That gets more difficult to do when I reflect back on this past September and my devoted defense of players others kept accusing of “not caring”.  Heck, I almost changed the name of this blog again because the players I honor with it are the ones who pulled all the crap I’m still mad about.  But slowly (and beginning long before this week) it goes deeper than just the Red Sox. Bud Selig’s MLB keeps reminding me that not only do the Red Sox not love us back but their parents and siblings don’t love us either and every day, for me, it becomes more difficult to defend or even just care about Major League Baseball.

Oh, and I didn’t even mention the fact that Bud Selig has reinstated Manny Ramirez and cut his 100 game suspension down to fifty games because he voluntarily sat out last season (read: “retired” out of embarrassment) after testing positive AGAIN for performance enhancing drugs.  Because having Manny Ramirez back in MLB is more important than upholding any kind of standards.

So, yeah, right now my baseball brain is not in such a great place. This blog has always been just a personal expression of my feeling about the Red Sox and baseball with a focus on staying positive for all the fans out there who are sick of the negativity coming from the mainstream media and so many other places now (blogs, Twitter, Facebook)…I’m hoping to get that back by the time the 2012 season is upon us but right now it’s really hard to get that positivity going.

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