Pujols issues warning to rest of NL; Torre, Piniella shrouded in mystery
"When we get it going, watch out,'' Pujols told SI.com. "I am glad we're struggling [early]. When we start it going, it's going to be scary.''
Considering they are 20-13 and in first place in the NL Central, some might say the Cardinals already are scaring plenty of folks in the National League. But Pujols doesn't see it that way. He said he hasn't been especially good, the offense as a whole can be better and the pitchers are carrying the Cardinals so far.
"The pitchers are taking care of business,'' Pujols said.
Pujols is plainly disappointed in his output thus far. He was batting .327 as he spoke a few days ago and is down to .320 now, still excellent but not up to his standards (he's a .333 lifetime hitter). He has seven home runs and 25 RBIs, also slightly below his normal output.
"I feel all right. I'm just not consistent. It's not where I'd want it to be,'' Pujols said. "Missing half of spring training can throw you off. But there are no excuses. I'm seeing the ball good, and I'm feeling good at the plate.''
If Pujols isn't himself, neither is $120 million man
What Pujols really feels best about is the attitude of this Cardinals team. On this day, virtually the whole team was at the park by 9:30 a.m., or 3 1/2 hours before they were to face Phillies' ace
"We have a great group,'' Pujols said. "The guys are really excited to get to the park and be around each other. By 2:30 [for night games] you're going to see a full clubhouse. That's something we don't have a problem with.''
They have a chance partly because the team leaders like Pujols and starting pitcher
The history helps, too, according to Pujols.
"There's a legacy here,'' he said. "In this organization, there are great examples to follow.
According to Pujols, La Russa is the one who pulls it all together.
"Our manager is our leader. He lets us joke around. But if we are out of line, he puts us back in line,'' Pujols said.
Pujols called the entire Cardinals experience "something pretty special.''
It sure sounded like it wasn't anything he wanted to give up. But he stopped short of talking about wanting to make the Cardinals experience his complete career experience. His contract is up after 2011, and while the sides have talked, there's no evidence of progress to this point.
"I don't have anything to talk about that now,'' he said when asked. He had said enough.
Some Dodgers-connected sources are expressing doubt
It isn't known what Torre was offered in the brief contract talks this spring, but according to the L.A.-connected people, McCourt is telling associates he doesn't believe a manager is worth north of $4 million. Sources say Torre was baseball's highest-paid manager at slightly more than $4 million when he signed his three-year Dodger deal, and now trails only La Russa, who is believed to make slightly more than Torre but slightly less than $5 million a year. Torre walked away from the Yankees following the 2007 season after saying he was insulted by an offer that included $3 million in incentives but guaranteed $5 million.
McCourt is embroiled in a bitter and public divorce and has cut the payroll from $120 million to $83 million over two years, but beyond any general financial concerns, he is apparently questioning the value of a manager to some confidants. Only four teams are believed to pay their manager at least $3 million (the Cubs'
Another issue involving Torre and the Dodgers is that the spring contract offer spelled out a new role as some sort of consultant following the 2011 season. While it isn't know whether the managerial offer was contingent on him taking the consultant job in subsequent years and that could be considered a nice add-on, Torre's friends in the game believe he loves managing and will want to keep doing it beyond 2011, no matter what he's telling himself or saying publicly now.
While McCourt has a very good relationship with GM
Piniella, whose contract expires after this season, still seems to have pep for a 66-year-old. But there have been issues with a couple of his star players, so nobody could blame him for aging a little with all he's been through in Chicago -- though the offseason trade that sent
"He loves Lou,'' one person close to Ricketts said. "He just thinks Lou may be burned out.''
That seems to fit with a cryptic remark made by team president
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