Why is it again that Pujols and the Cards can’t work out an extension during the season?

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols has fun with Yadier Molina (L) and Pedro Feliz (R) in the dugout in the fifth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 27, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

It’s kind of ironic that Albert Pujols’ camp didn’t want the superstar’s contract situation to become a distraction because that’s exactly what it’s become.

Wednesday’s Noon deadline came and went without Pujols and the Cardinals agreeing to a new contract. As it stands now, the slugger will head into the 2012 offseason as a free agent and the Cards will just have to hope another team doesn’t whisk him away before they have another chance to re-sign him. (If they even want to re-sign him, that is. It sounds like the club has no plans of meeting Pujols’ 10-year, $275 million-plus demands.)

But what’s unclear to me is why the discussions have to cease. I think it’s admirable that Pujols doesn’t want his personal situation to become a distraction to his teammates, but that’s out of his hands. Does anyone think that the media in St. Louis isn’t going to ask him about his future plans just because his deadline passed? Does he think the media in New York, Chicago or L.A. won’t poke and prod him every night when the Cardinals play the Mets, Cubs and Dodgers on the road?

Sorry Albert, but your situation will be a distraction whether you like it or not. So you might as well let your camp continue discussing dollar amounts with the team over these next couple of months. At least then you can say, “Hey, my agent is working on it. I’m staying out of it.” That sounds a heck of a lot better than, “I’m going to body slam the next sum bitch that says the word contract.” (What, that doesn’t sound like Pujols?)

I think everyone needs to use common sense here. Albert has stated that he wants to stay in St. Louis and you know the Cardinals don’t want to lose him. So if the main objective is to keep him in the Lou, then the two sides might as well keep the lines of communication open throughout the season. Again, it’s not realistic to think that everyone will fall hush over these next couple of months just because Pujols’ deadline passed on Wednesday. He’s baseball’s best player and this story is the biggest in baseball. Who knows, maybe if the two sides keep talking, they’ll eventually settle on something and everyone can put this mess behind them.

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Report: Pujols rejects Cardinals’ latest offer

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols slaps his hands as he flies out, scoring a run in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 3, 2010. Pujols went hitless as St. Louis breaks a five game losing streak with a 3-2. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Albert Pujols rejected a recent contract offer by the Cardinals and is ready to cease all talks about a new deal until after the World Series.

Pujols, trying to avoid distractions, has no intention of addressing the contract talks when he reports Wednesday to the Cardinals’ spring-training camp in Jupiter, Fla. Manager Tony La Russa told reporters Sunday he will also encourage his players to avoid the issue.

“This is a spectacular distraction potentially,” La Russa said. “We won’t allow it to be.”

Even if Pujols continues his silence about his future, it won’t squelch the firestorm that has already been created in St. Louis. Newspaper columnists are picking sides. The phrase “#Albertageddon” is gaining popularity on Twitter. And a Web site — albertcountdown.com — is counting down to when he arrives at spring training and terminates negotiations.

“I read that he’s looking for $30 million a year, and I just can’t see how that’s going to happen,” said Andy MacPhail, Baltimore Orioles president of baseball operations, during a Q&A at the Baltimore School of Law Sports Symposium.

He may get $30 million a year but it probably won’t come from the Cardinals. As I’ve wrote for the past couple of weeks, St. Louis’ payroll usually never tops $100 million so it seems unlikely that the club would give one player $275 million over the span of 10 years. (Even if that player is Albert Pujols.)

I don’t think the Cards ever intended to give Pujols a new deal by his spring training deadline. They need more time to figure out what they’re going to do and they’ll be given that time when the season begins. But in the end, they’re still going to have to make a decision. Either pay the best player in the game what he wants or watch him walk out the door.

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