National / Sports / February 16, 2011

Pujols, NFL labor negotiations dominating the news

There are two stories dominating sports news this week: the ongoing Albert Pujols “Will he or won’t he re-sign with the Cardinals?” drama and the bickering between National Football League (NFL) owners and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA).
In each instance, management is complaining about the influence of collective bargaining tactics.
In the NFL negotiations, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is hell-bent on making amends for what he calls the “sh-t” deal the owners negotiated with the players in 2006. The owners are asking for, collectively, an extra billion dollars a year from revenue that would normally be distributed as part of a 60/40 (60 to players; 40 to owners) deal. And while Richardson and others admit that NFL owners are making gobs and gobs of money, they want more.
Owners like Richardson are peeved that the NFLPA can, on a whim, decide they will not play. And the NFLPA is upset that the owners, even with a lockout, will receive garbage trucks full of money from television networks that lease the rights to NFL games.
Problem is, the owners aren’t really going about their demands in tactful fashion.
Richardson, perhaps forgetting that the brain trauma issue in the NFL is at its boiling point, cracked wise at superstar Peyton Manning for bringing up player safety.
Though players in the NFL are, undoubtedly, paid exorbitant amounts of money (to display their world-class skills playing a dangerous game), they are entitled to the money they make—and they are entitled to brush aside the criticisms of men like Richardson, who are clearly interested in lining their already deep pockets.
The NFLPA has done well to highlight the concussion issue (as have journalists with the New York Times and New Yorker magazine), as they can work those concerns into the negotiations and paint the owners as callous and grotesque money-counters. Even if a lockout happens—which seems possible right now—I doubt the players will suffer much in the media. The owners will be rightly vilified.
Another tack. On Tuesday morning, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa complained that his star first baseman, Albert Pujols, was being pressured by the players’ union to get the most money out of the Cardinals. In a sense, LaRussa—a dyed in the wool conservative—is complaining about the evil power of unions. It’s nothing new, and it’s sure to garner LaRussa a good deal of public support.
But union officials insist they are not interested in simply handing players to the highest bidder. Were that the case, now-Phillies southpaw Cliff Lee probably would have signed with the New York Yankees back in December. So, it seems, Pujols’ demands are entirely his own.
According to sources, these demands amount to a lot of money. A whole lot. As in $300 million spread out over 10 years. And unlike the NFLPA—who is simply asking to continue to play with better safety measures and a collective bargaining agreement not unlike the last one they signed—Pujols is asking for an unprecedented amount of money in non-Yankee terms.
When the dust settles from Albertageddon, two things that have always been true will remain true: 1. Albert Pujols is very, very good at baseball. 2. Any team interested in signing Pujols in his free agent years has to significantly overpay. Even the hometown Cardinals.
On the first issue, no one debates that Pujols is an incredible talent, a surefire hall-of-famer and perhaps the greatest right-handed hitter of his generation. He is the rarest of rare baseball players: the kind that transcends the fiery debate between the “numbers crowd” and the “scouting crowd.” All agree: Pujols is some kind of amazing.
Yet he’s 30 years old and he’s asking for a contract that will last 10 years. Though some intelligent baseball minds—such as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs—insist that 10 years isn’t much of a risk, these writers seem to forget that we are past the steroid era and the amphetamine era. It’s not just late-career rejuvenation that disappears along with a lack of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), it’s season-long sustenance. And when Pujols gets a little older and a little slower, with some more tread on his tires—perhaps some more inevitable nagging injuries, plantar fasciitis for instance, the Cardinals may wish they hadn’t tied him down for 10 years.
Worst of all, Pujols should know better. Though he’s certainly worth $25 million a year in principle, and during his peak years only, he can’t expect to maintain that salary through his late thirties. Does he want to be the anchor around the neck of St. Louis’ front office? Does he want to keep them from fielding a team around him? (We already witnessed the trouble the Cardinals had signing Matt Holliday—a nice, good-kinda-great-but-not-great hitter and terrible outfielder—to support Pujols.)
But Pujols has all the power. The Cardinals front office won’t be able to convince their fan base that the organization is, collectively, larger than any single player. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak will inevitably blink, and Pujols will cash a giant check until 2021. It won’t end well for them, either.
Here’s hoping the NFLPA, too, wins big. But though the players deserve the money, owners like Carolina’s Richardson seem intent on downplaying head trauma and trumping up stories about player salaries.
Hopefully the media, not to mention the public-at-large, doesn’t take the bait.

Kevin Morris


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Chocolate and chocolate lovers filled the third floor of the Galesburg Antique Mall as part of Galesburg’s 25th Annual Chocolate Festival. In the back, at a table spanning the length of the room, chocolate lovers could go through a line to receive a plate packed with delicious cake, waffles, candy, marshmallow fudge and ice cream donated by various Galesburg businesses and individuals.

“I like the whole concept that everyone comes and eats chocolate. And the local businesses … have these delicious chocolates for everyone,” sophomore Rachel Fisher said.

One of the strangest creations there was chocolate-covered bacon, which was a balance of salty and sweet. The room was full of decadence and sugar and throughout there were exclamations of “So much chocolate!d when Pujols gets a little older and a little slower, with some more tread on his tires—perhaps some more inevitable nagging injuries, plantar fasciitis for instance, the Cardinals may wish they hadn’t tied him down for 10 years.

Worst of all, Pujols should know better. Though he’s certainly worth $25 million a year in principle, and during his peak years only, he can’t expect to maintain that salary through his late thirties. Does he want to be the anchor around the neck of St. Louis’ front office? Does he want to keep them from fielding a team around him? (We already witnessed the trouble the Cardinals had signing Matt Holliday—a nice, good-kinda-great-but-not-great hitter and terrible outfielder—to support Pujols.)

But Pujols has all the power. The Cardinals front office won’t be able to convince their fan base that the organization is, collectively, larger than any single player. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak will inevitably blink, and Pujols will cash a giant check until 2021. It won’t end well for them, either.

Here’s hoping the NFLPA, too, wins big. But though the players deserve the money, owners like Carolina’s Richardson seem intent on downplaying head trauma and trumping up stories about player salaries.

Hopefully the media, not to mention the public-at-large, doesn’t take the bait.

Sheena Leano


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