Five topics from columnist Ben Frederickson that St. Louis sports fans should be discussing:
1. What Petro can learn from Pujols
Albert Pujols hitting home run No. 660 got me thinking about Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo.
Apples and oranges, I know, but hear me out.
Pujols left St. Louis after his age-31 season for the big free-agent contract right after the Cardinals won a championship. Many of his Hall of Fame worthy milestones have happened in California as a result, with considerably less fanfare than he would have experienced if he stayed with the Cardinals. While Pujols got paid – he is owed a whopping $30 million in 2021 in the final season of his 10-year, $240 million deal – he has played in just three postseason games during his nine seasons with the Angels, and none since the Angels were swept by the Royals in a division series back in 2014.
Pietrangelo, 30, is weighing what to do as full-blown free agency approaches. He’s not fresh off a championship season, but the memories of him becoming the first Blues captain to lift the Stanley Cup are still new to us. Pietrangelo has made it clear that he hopes to stay in St. Louis, but there is a growing sense the old “hometown discount” is going to have to be in play for that to work out.
If it’s mostly about the money, chances are Pietrangelo is going to go, and there’s nothing wrong with that if he does. Pujols' play in St. Louis earned him more money elsewhere, so he left. Pietrangelo could be in the same boat.
But while we will probably never get a straight answer on this, I will always wonder if Pujols would make the same decision in a re-do situation. I will always wonder if he would have put more emphasis on the chance to win more championships, something accepting a bit of a hometown discount probably would have helped.
Between Pujols’ rookie debut in 2001 and his free-agent departure after the 2011 season, the Cardinals ranked third in baseball in regular-season wins (994) and second (40) in postseason wins. The Angels checked in fourth (984) and sixth (21), respectively.
Since Pujols changed teams, the Angels have ranked 13th in regular-season wins (676) and have become one of just two teams along with the Twins that have not won a single postseason game.
Well, they are fourth in regular-season wins (743) and fourth in postseason wins (24) during that span. They have been in the postseason five of eight times, and are on track to do it again during this pandemic-challenged season, at least for now.
Since Pietrangelo became a full-time player for the Blues during the 2010-11 season, the Blues rank fourth in regular-season wins (445) and eighth in postseason wins (44). The run includes just one postseason missed in the last nine years.
Different players. Different sports. Different decisions.
But one thing that sometimes seems to get factored out of these conversations is the benefit of playing baseball or hockey for a team that makes a point to compete year in and year out.
The money may be bigger elsewhere, but depending on the value a player assigns to competing for more championships, the grass probably won't get much greener than it is right here.
Sometimes that's easier to see at the end of a career instead of its peak.
2. Humble and kind
Mike Shannon came up with a Lou Brock tribute only Shannon could share during Saturday’s celebration of life for the Hall of Famer.
Shannon suggested the country song, “Humble and Kind” was inspired by Brock’s attributes, noting that the artist who sings that tune, country legend Tim McGraw, is the son of former Mets pitcher, Tug McGraw.
“Was he humble and was he kind?” Shannon said. “Oh, yeah. On the field, though, don’t mess with him. Don’t even come close to him. He was such a delight to watch. He entertained an entire community. I’ll give you an example. Say you were a pitcher, and the Cardinals were coming to town. You had three days to think about him. All he was thinking about was Brock. 'If I can keep that sucker off base, I got a chance.' But he could not keep him off base. Brock would walk up to the catcher and say, ‘Now, you know I’m going to steal.’ And the catcher would say, ‘Yeah, I’m waiting on you.’ He would announce things.”
Back to humble and kind . . .
“I think they wrote that song about Lou," Shannon said. "Lou gave it to them. You know who sings that song? The guy Brock used to terrorize, he was with the Mets, it’s his son that sings that. So, he got it from Lou. Humble and kind. But, you talk about a competitor. Wow. He was the best. It was such a pleasure to know him. A wonderful, wonderful person.”
The Mets (97) were one of five MLB teams Brock swiped 90-plus bases against during his 19-season career.
3. Bartow’s back!
It was great to see Cardinals media relations boss Brian Bartow before Brock's service Saturday. Bartow is back on his feet after his battle with COVID-19. He recently returned to working from the ballpark.
Great news, and welcome back, B.
4. Hawks lose an advocate
Sending warm and comforting thoughts to the Marecek family after the news of Greg Marecek’s passing at age 71. The founder of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame was a tireless advocate for remembering and celebrating the history of the St. Louis Hawks.
I still have a DVD of the Hawks' greatest moments he handed me after a baseball writers' luncheon years ago. Who knows how many people know a little more about St. Louis' championship basketball era thanks to Marecek.
May he rest in peace.
5. Part of the problem?
A memo to the folks attending the #LetThemPlay protests in St. Louis County. Your message gets weaker every time there’s a photo of someone in your crowd who is refusing to wear a mask. Pass them out if you have to. Ask those who refuse to wear one to leave the group.
Your best argument revolves around resuming games within the rules, and keeping players safe as you go. Not following the most basic of guidelines during demonstrations is just providing more fodder for your critics.