Cardinals broadcaster Al Hrabosky shows off his World Series ring while signing autographs during a baseball card show at the Quincy Mall. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
The first question thrown at Cardinals broadcaster Al Hrabosky and third baseman David Freese when they arrived to sign autographs Saturday at the annual baseball card show in the Quincy Mall was an obvious one.
Will the Cardinals and first baseman Albert Pujols get a deal done?
“I was disappointed we didn’t announce a deal last week,” Hrabosky said.
Pujols’ agent set a deadline of Feb. 19 — the first full squad workout at spring training — for a new contract to be negotiated or Pujols will become a free agent at the end of the 2011 season. Arguably the best player in the game today, Pujols isn’t making his contract demands public, but speculation is he and his agent are asking for at least $30 million per year and possibly a 10-year deal.
Hrabosky said that’s risky business for the Redbirds.
“It’s a big gamble to tie up that much in one player,” said Hrabosky, who is the color analyst for the Cardinals broadcasts on Fox Sports Midwest. “What happens if he gets hurt?”
Beyond that, Pujols won’t always be a 30 home run, 100 RBI guy.
“There is going to be a point when he starts declining,” Hrabosky said.
Still, it all comes down to money.
“In order to pay him and put a team around him, that’s a pretty good juggling act,” Hrabosky said.
Knowing every player has contract demands, Freese said the negotiations don’t carry over to the clubhouse.
“We go about our business,” Freese said.
Showing off his bling
Hrabosky, who pitched in the major leagues for 13 seasons and was with the Cardinals from 1970-77, told himself he would never wear a World Series ring unless he was on a team that earned it. Well, Hrabosky never played on a World Series championship, but he has received World Series rings as part of the Cardinals franchise the last four times the Redbirds have played in the Fall Classic.
Finally, he has decided it’s OK to wear one of the rings since he’s celebrating the Cardinals’ success.
And there’s another reason to show them off.
“I want to show Cubs fans something they’ve never seen before,” Hrabosky said.
Freese, a St. Louis native and graduate of Lafayette, is learning being a hometown boy doesn’t mean there needs to be added pressure.
Mike Shannon reminded him of that. Shannon, a former Cardinals third baseman and current radio voice, grew up in St. Louis and graduated from CBC High School.
“He told me, ‘You’ll be better off when you realize not everyone knows you,’” Freese said.
Matt Holliday, the Cardinals starting left fielder, has made St. Louis his home. Signed through 2016, Holliday wanted his kids to be in school and to have a stable life near him.
“It shows how much he wants to not only be a part of the team, but a part of the community,” Freese said.
Last year, Holliday hit .312 with 28 home runs and 103 RBI in his first full season in St. Louis.
“We haven’t seen the best of Holliday,” Freese said.
Quite a lineup
How is this for the heart of a batting order?
You’re No. 3 hitter has hit at least 30 home runs and collected at least 100 RBI each of the last 10 seasons.
You’re No. 4 hitter has belted at least 20 home runs the last six seasons and driven in at least 100 RBI five times.
You’re No. 5 hitter has six 100 RBI seasons and five seasons with 30 or more home runs in his career.
That’s what the Cardinals have with Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.
“It doesn’t get much scarier than that,” Freese said.