Albert Pujols: Yes, He’s Disloyal, Greedy, and Confused.

I'm sorry! This was supposed to be a picture of Albert Pujols, not King Midas. Well, six of one, half-dozen of the other...

Cardinal free agent first baseman Albert Pujols, generally regarded as the most talented baseball slugger alive, just jumped from his supposedly beloved St. Louis to the Los Angeles Angels because they offered him several more millions of dollars per year that he couldn’t possible spend if he tried than the Cardinals did. The attitude of most players, fans and sportswriters, not to mention the players’ union (naturally), is “Of course! Who wouldn’t?”

Who wouldn’t? A more ethical, less greedy, more thoughtful human being, that’s who.

The Angels won Pujols with an offer of $254 million dollars for ten years, making him the highest paid player on captivity. The Cardinals. on the other hand, whose fans had cheered him, embraced him and worshipped him, and which had established Pujols as one of the franchise’s icons fit to stand with Stan the Man Musial, Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean and Lou Brock, had offered a measly $204 million for nine years, or about 23 million a year. The difference between the two offers is minimized, if not eliminated, by the cost of living disparity between the two locales: housing, for example, is about 250% more expensive in LA.

Pujols, therefore, is like the Wall Street executives who persuade their boards to vote them absurd bonuses and compensation while eliminating lower level employees. The usual rationalization for approving the conduct of athletes who desert fans and cities for top dollar is that they have an obligation to “take care of their kids,” but this excuse expired as soon as star salaries in sports passed the eight figure level. Albert is looking out for his kids by making sure he makes 25 million a year instead of 23 million? Who believes that? Is it a father’s obligation to make sure his children can all buy airports? Meanwhile, the money Pujols takes ensures that lesser players have a smaller pool of cash to carve up, and their children might well feel the difference. Of course, working fans and their kids will be less likely to be able to afford to enjoy a baseball game in person.

Like those business executives who don’t care that their pointlessly extravagant salaries and bonuses exacerbate social tensions and fuel irresponsible class warfare tactics by politicians, the athletes who seek money for money’s sake do needless harm for minimal additional advantages and benefits, even to themselves. That is the real definition of greed, after all: not the desire for financial resources to do something tangible that could not be accomplished otherwise, but the elevation of money for its own sake above all other values and priorities. I know that there are people who will argue that “nobody needs” to make amounts ranging from a million to $100,000, and these are obviously debatable opinions. There has to be some point, however, well before one hits “all the money in the world” where it is reasonable to say nobody “needs” or should want to make any more money, and while I don’t know what the exact point is, I am confident that the point is reached well before $20,000,000 a year, gambling, cocaine and gold-plated jockey shorts addictions aside.

No, I don’t argue that decisions like Pujols’ should be constrained by law. It should be constrained by decency, proportion, moderation, loyalty, generosity and fairness….ethics, in other words. If he wanted to get out of St. Louis for other reasons, then everything I have just written is moot. But Albert Pujols always claimed that he loved St. Louis and the Cardinals. Now we know he loves money more. Just money, even when he could have had plenty, and St. Louis too.

That’s naked greed, my friends. There is no other word for it.


10 thoughts on “Albert Pujols: Yes, He’s Disloyal, Greedy, and Confused.

  1. I’m an Astros fan, and I was in the stadium for game 5 of the NLCS when we went from one strike away from the World Series, to two men on base and Pujols hitting a walk off home run. On a pure “nothing personal but this guy is bad for my team” level, I dislike the man, and it kills me that we’re going all the way to the American league just to end up in the same division again.

    That said, I’m interested in exploring this a little more. I’m about to leave my job and go to work for a competing firm. Based on others’ experiences, I fully expect two things to happen on Monday when I tell my current, about to be former employer: 1. I will be informed that there is no need for me to work out my two week notice period, and escorted from the building; 2. before this happens, there will be a concerted effort to change my mind. One of the arguments will be of the “we’ve invested so much in you” nature. My counter to that is this: I’ve given the firm several years of hard work in return, at times above and beyond the call of duty. It was a two-way exchange, not a gift of training and experience to me from the firm that obligates me to stay there past my inclination otherwise – whatever the reason.

    I don’t entirely disagree with your analysis, as there is a difference between an accountant and a professional athlete, but while reading your post I kept thinking “Why does Pujols have an ethical obligation to stay in his current employment situation if he’s found one more to his liking, whatever the reason?” You could argue he has also gone “above and beyond” the average player’s contribution, in return for what he has gotten from St. Louis, and that he has an absolute right to change his employment situation whenever his contract permits, for whatever reason.

    I was blessed to be an Astros fan in the years of Biggio and Bagwell, the faces of the franchise who stayed and finished their careers where they began. And, I have also experienced the disappointment and feelings of betrayal when someone who seemed inextricably tied to my team went somewhere else. So I want to agree with you, but – coming from the perspective of any other employment situation – I don’t quite get there. Make the leap for me?

    PS – there’s at least one source saying the Marlins offered him more, and with no income tax in Florida, the difference would have effectively been even greater than stated. If true, it does suggest that something other than money came into consideration.

    • The Marlins rumor seems not to be true—they didn’t even match the Cards.
      As I said, if Pujols would rather play in California because of the weather, the team, the community or because his old girl friend lives there, those are all legitimate reasons to leave when the money is equal, more, or even less. My point is that leaving for only money, when the money has reached the point of diminishing returns, when the player has professed his love for the city and team means that only money matters. Well, that’s a deplorable attitude when the money really doesn’t matter at all.

      Maybe Pujols was talking nonsense when he said those things about St; Louis, in which case he’s accountable for his dishonesty, and brought this on himself. The Cards got more than their money’s worth in Albert—he’s been a bargain. He doesn’t “owe” them a thing. But loyalty is not a debt—it’s an acknowledgment and a result of earned trust. “Money over everything” is a crappy value system, and I want role models to be better than that. Former Astro Curt Schilling said there wasn’t enough money in the world to make him move from the Red Sox to the Yankees, and he meant it. That’s an assertion that some things are more important than pure dollar amounts, and some things are. If Albert understands this, he’s fooled me.

      • Okay, I get what you’re saying. I was thinking more in terms of “why shouldn’t he be free to take whichever offer he wants, for whatever reason” when your contention is not that the act of taking a different job is wrong – but that it seems to reveal an attitude that is, in itself, unethical. In and of itself, I think I agree.

        Just to play devil’s advocate, though: Maybe Pujols was talking nonsense when he said those things about St; Louis, in which case he’s accountable for his dishonesty, and brought this on himself.

        Does it have to be either/or? Either he lied about loving things in St. Louis, and has other good reasons to move, or he told the truth back then and therefore is now only motivated by money? Going back to my own situation, I’ve certainly enjoyed the bulk of my time at the current firm and had good relationships with my coworkers and clients. At times I certainly could have seen myself staying there and making partner. Now, however, there are other considerations at play that didn’t exist or didn’t matter as much back then, that make the new firm more attractive for reasons having nothing to do with money. Couldn’t the same be true for Pujols?

    • As a St. Louis native here, I’ll say that it’s not really Pujols leaving that bothers me (even though I wouldn’t know what to do with $75,000, much less $254 million), but that before the recent move, he had basically been continually giving the impression that St. Louis would always be his home. Oh well, Freese was the MVP this season anyways.

  2. Possibly off topic, but…

    If Jenna’s “current, soon to be former employer” is a Ethics Alarm lurker, she may be confronted by the options she wrote of before Monday… and, maybe going back on topic, is there an ethical issue there should her employer use this intell to diffuse her position on the “training and experience” issue.

    Would this be on the level of a batter glancing back to catch the sign (deemed bad behavior) or more like a linebacker noting the foot position of the guard as a key??

    And, yes… in these days of salary caps the highly paid superstar takes something from his teammates when he raids the payroll. The team payroll is a zero-sum beast.

  3. I am never going to undertsnad your p[osition on this. Why should he not take the most money? I can understand if he stayed out of loyality BUT St Louis was told they needed to make this deal three years ago and not wait until the last minute. They refused to do so. They signed Matt Holiday and then told Pujols they couldnt afford to pay HIM anymore. The Cardnels screwed this up if their intent was to keep him. I think their intent all along was to insult him to the point where he would leave and be the bad guy. Now they have more money to spend on younger players. Paying 25-27.5 Million a year for ten years to a 32 year old ball player is idiotic.

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