Pujols hopes to end career in St. Louis
Slugger talks about contract, club's direction with reporters Sunday
JUPITER, Fla. -- In a lengthy and wide-ranging conversation with reporters on Sunday, Albert Pujols voiced optimism about his team's chances and confidence in its direction, while acknowledging that he understands fan frustration with the club's two-year postseason absence.
The longest continuously-tenured Cardinals player, Pujols arrived at Roger Dean Stadium for Spring Training as the unquestioned face of one of baseball's signature franchises. From that perch, he held forth on plenty of subjects, including his contract, the future of the organization and the recent re-emergence of the controversy regarding illegal performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
Pujols is entering his ninth season in St. Louis. He's signed through 2010 with a club option that is all but certain to be exercised for 2011. Still, the contract that he signed back in 2004 no longer seems quite so eternal. The end is at least within sight, and public pressure has already begun to build for St. Louis to explore an extension.
Just as he did a month ago at the club's Winter Warm-Up, Pujols downplayed talk of a new deal. However, he also made clear his great fondness for the city and the organization that have been his only Major League home.
"Do I want to be in St. Louis forever? Of course," Pujols said. "Because that city has opened the door to me and my family like no other city is ever going to do. I don't want to [go to] any other city, but if that time comes I'm pretty sure wherever I go they are going to do the same way -- hopefully, open the doors. But I don't think it's to be anything compared to St. Louis.
"People from other teams want to play in St. Louis and they're jealous that we're in St. Louis because the fans are unbelievable. So why would you want to leave a place like St. Louis to go somewhere else and make $3 or $4 more million a year? It's not about the money. I already got my money. It's about winning and that's it. It's about accomplishing my goal and my goal is to try to win. If this organization shifts the other way then I have to go the other way."
In Pujols' eyes, the organization has not yet "shifted the other way." He expressed support for the franchise's course in recent years, while also emphasizing again that a new contract is not a big priority.
"When that time comes, then we're going to figure it out," he said. "And I told you, I'm not going to lie to you, it's not about the money all the time. It's about being in a place to win and being in a position to win. If the Cardinals are willing to do that and put a team every year like they have, I'm going to try to work everything out to stay in this town. But if they're not on the same page of bringing championship caliber to play every year, then it's time for me to go somewhere else. Where? Somewhere else that I can win.
"But we don't have to worry about that because I still have a couple of years. As long as they bring in talent and they keep drafting guys and doing moves here and there, then I don't have to worry about that. I'm happy with what I got. I play one year at a time and when that time comes we'll figure it out. But it's not always about how much money can I get. It's about winning. I've already told you guys. I've got 10 fingers and I've nine plain that I can fill up with World Series rings. I want to win."
Pujols was less interested in discussing steroids and the hullabaloo surrounding Alex Rodriguez, who was recently admitted to having used performance-enhancing drugs. He initially insisted that he had no comment, feeling stung by the portrayal of some of his past remarks about Barry Bonds.
The slugger also still clearly recalls the erroneous report that he would be one of the players named in the Mitchell Report.
"I always say, [with] people saying things about me and think I'm doing crazy things, whatever is in the dark is going to come in the light," he said. "I'm a big believer of that. It's in the Bible. I can fool all you guys but if I'm hiding something it's going to come to the light. That's it. God will show that. I told you guys already, I fear God too much for me to do any stupid things in this game. Not all the people think like that, and that's what's so sad."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.