This is the first “Ask Bernie” that I’ve done in a while, so I apologize for straying from the plan. But I was having some email issues that had to be cleaned up, and now I’m back in the game.
You can hit me with your questions via email: BernieScoops@gmail.com
Let’s begin with some of your thoughts and comments on the Cardinals’ signing of Albert Pujols. I appreciated all of your notes on this big-news event …
One more point I would make to those saying Pujols is unworthy of the farewell tour for Yadi and Waino. There probably would not be a farewell tour if not for Albert departing. There is no way the front office would have kept all three players at $15-to-$20 million apiece. The $20 million per year for Pujols would have had to come from somewhere.
We also would have painfully seen Albert trudge out to 1B in 2019-2021 instead of Paul Goldschmidt. We got 11 years of HOF play for roughly $10 million per year. The Angels got a replacement level player for $24 million per year. I was angry for a few years, but we could pretty easily see by 2013 the huge favor Albert did for STL.
Bernie: These are terrific points. I never thought of the Goldschmidt angle to this, so thank you for introducing it. You underlined an important aspect to this: the Cardinals actually benefited by Pujols leaving, which is another reason why it’s so dang silly for people to be so childish and petty. (If they still are.)
I admit I was one that was against the Pujols move, but I just didn’t want it to be a sideshow where he comes out with everyone standing, he tips his hat and strikes out, because this isn’t the same Pujols who left here 10 years ago. And this also gives the Cards front office another year off the hook for not making any significant moves to improve and take this weak division. This move guarantees a full house every night. And they get a free pass off this farewell tour all year.
But I read your piece today, and it gave me a different look and vibe, your right, that (bleeping) Kroenke and the NFL made me hate football, and yes I was mad when Pujols left. But you’re right STOP THE HATE !! Enjoy this farewell tour. I tell my kids they better get on YouTube and I’ll show them Pujols in his prime… embrace this year of the farewell tour … just wanted you to know you changed a heart today with your piece, and you took the hate away and filled with great memories and hopefully a blessed year and one helluva party all summer long at Busch!
– Dave W
Bernie: Thank you, Dave! First of all, you weren’t and aren’t wrong about the Cardinals taking such a measured approach to improving their team for 2022 when they could have been more aggressive without doing any long-term damage to their future. I’ll be writing about this in an upcoming column, but here’s the angle in advance: if we’re going to have a season hullabaloo over Molina, Wainwright and Pujols – which I fully embrace as a fan – then why not make the most of it by putting a better team around them? As for coming around on the view that this should be a celebration and an appreciation of three of the greatest Cardinals – this tells me you have a good heart. I think the last two-three years have made most of us testy, and grumpier than usual. We’re easily triggered and I include myself in that. This is also why it’s important to treasure the good things in our lives, and enjoy our lives, and the farewell tour will be a welcome respite from our troubles. Take care!
Good article on Pujols, Bernie. It’s a shame Pujols left the Cards when he did because we’ll never know how many more World Series championships St. Louis would have won. Back then, my biggest complaint was the NL not having the DH rule. Pujols had problems with his feet and the DH would have given him some relief from not having to play defense every day. Even then I felt the rule was unfair to the National League. All that said, I hope he has a great year and the Cards find themselves back in the World Series. Thanks for the great reporting you do and keep it coming.
– Danny S.
Bernie: Thanks for the thought-provoking note, Danny. I have mixed feelings about it. And you did get me thinking about this. If I may make a few points … not every point, but just a few.
– If Pujols had stayed the Cardinals would have been paying a huge sum of money for his decline–phase part of his career. And the decline was rather steep; as a full-time player Pujols hasn’t had an above-average season since 2016. And from 2017 through 2021 he batted .241 with a .290 onbase percentage and .410 slugging percentage. He’s been about 15 percent below average offensively over that time.
– With Pujols gone, the Cardinals used many first basemen before acquiring Paul Goldschmidt before the 2019 season. I just did some quick research on this, and from 2012 through 2018 the Cards used 24 different guys at first base. Some hardly played, and the six guys with the most plate appearances at first base during this time were Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, Jose Martinez, Mark Reynolds and Brandon Moss. All in all, this large contingent of first basemen fared pretty well over the seven seasons between Pujols’ exit and Goldy’s arrival. They combined for a .793 OPS, .339 OBP and .455 slug. And as a group their park-adjusted runs created total was 16 percent above average and ranked 10th in the majors. Not the vintage Pujols – but not bad at all.
– As others have pointed out in this Ask Bernie column: if Pujols had signed a 10-year deal with the Cardinals, the weight of his contract could have impacted the futures of other Cardinals. Wainwright signed a five-year deal for $97.5 million before the 2014 season – was that a certainty with Pujols averaging $24 million a year? Then again, having Pujols in place would have prevented some terrible or so-so free-agent signings and other contracts (Dexter Fowler, Jhonny Peralta, Brett Cecil, Mike Leake, and the Matt Carpenter and Carlos Martinez extensions … just to name a few.)
– The Cardinals insist on playing guys that they are paying, no matter how they perform. So with Pujols at first base, there’s no trade for Goldschmidt before ‘19.
– The Cardinals received draft-choice compensation when Pujols left as a free agent. One of the picks was used to draft pitcher Michael Wacha, and I don’t think this team wins the NL pennant in 2013 without him. What a brilliant, memorable postseason for Wacha in ‘13. Wacha saved the Cardinals from elimination in the 2013 LDS in a Game 4 gem at Pittsburgh. And if Wacha he doesn’t outduel Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw – not once, but twice – for two wins in the NLCS, they don’t win the pennant and advance to the World Series.
– I really enjoyed watching Carlos Beltran as a Cardinal for two seasons. He was signed as a de facto hitting replacement for Pujols and did a great job, playing a major role in leading the 2012 Cards to the NLCS and the 2013 team to the NL pennant. With Pujols still capable of putting up really good numbers from 2012 through 2014, the Cardinals may have won another WS title. But they also wouldn’t have had Beltran in 2012 and ‘13 … so we have to take that into consideration.
Thanks for the question. You got me going, obviously.
Thanks for your wonderful columns! I was wondering what the LaRussa angle to Pujols joining Cardinals might be? Thanks.
Bernie: I appreciate the compliment. Thank you! The angle from where I sit is this: La Russa reached out to Albert and strongly encouraged him to return to the Cardinals. Tony believed it was meant to be, and that it would be an incredible experience for Albert, Yadi, Waino, the franchise and the fans.
Bernie, how in the world can you rate David Lee ahead of “Dollar” Bill Bradley? Being from New York & being of a “certain age”, I’ve watched them both over their entire careers. Lee made no impact on mediocre Knick teams whereas Bradley was a major factor in the Knicks championship teams. I would also point out Bradley’s iconic career & Princeton. (This has brought back warm memories of a team once great.)
Thanks, Elliot L.
From Bernie: Elliot, I respect your historical perspective, so thanks for that. You’re right; after all Bradley is a Basketball Hall of Famer. That said, the Princeton years don’t count in an analysis of the best St. Louis players in the NBA. And I wouldn’t rip Lee’s time in New York. He made the All-Star team and was one of the NBA’s best rebounders during his time with the Knicks – a team that never did better than 33-49 with Lee on the roster. Those poor records weren’t his fault.
I watched the early 1970s Knicks teams a lot because they had some exciting battles against “my” Baltimore Bullets. But taking nothing away from Bradley, his teammates in 1970 and/or 1973 (the two NBA title seasons) included Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Earl Monroe, Jerry Lucas, Dick Barnett, Cazzie Russell and Phil Jackson. Including Bradley, that’s six Hall of Famers. And I may have missed one or two! But I’m going to slightly alter my rankings out of respect to your judgment – and because of Bradley’s Hall of Fame status. These rankings weren’t easy to do. After all, two of the best — Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum — are still playing.
Bernie, what would you say is the trade value of Paul DeJong?
– Dave R.
Bernie: This isn’t meant as a smart-aleck comment, but I’ll let you know around the All-Star break. The Cardinals aren’t looking to trade DeJong now; they believe he’ll rebound in 2022. I have an open mind on that possibility – but remain skeptical. But if he doesn’t hit for the first three months, then what? And if he isn’t hitting, how much value would he have. I don’t believe his remaining contract terms are onerous – and who knows, some team may covet a good defensive shortstop. And DeJong is that. We just have to see how he performs, and what it leads to. At some point, if this team is serious about playing Nolan Gorman a lot at second base, Tommy Edman will have to shift to shortstop – if, in fact, the Cardinals like him there.
Thanks again for the emails, and I’ll try to catch up on the list of questions that I haven’t gotten to yet. I appreciate your patience.
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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Please email your “Ask Bernie” questions to BernScoops@gmail.com
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.