Pujols makes choice... and it's not St. Louis

514704.jpg

Pujols makes choice... and it's not St. Louis

From Comcast SportsNet

DALLAS (AP)Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols agreed Thursday to a 254 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels, leaving the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals after more than a decade for a new baseball life in southern California.

Pujols contract, which is subject to a physical, is the second-highest in baseball history and only the third to break the 200 million barrier, following Alex Rodriguezs 252 million, 10-year deal with Texas before the 2001 season and A-Rods 275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.

This is a monumental day for Angel fans and I could not be more excited, Angels owner Arte Moreno said.

In addition to the Pujols signing, the Angels agreed to a five-year contract with left-hander C.J. Wilson, a deal worth 77.5 million that raised their spending for the day to 331.5 million.

People familiar with the deals told The Associated Press the terms of each contract, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details were not made public.

Pujols had spent all 11 of his major league seasons with the Cardinals, hitting .338 with 445 home runs and 1,329 RBIs to become a franchise icon second only to Stan Musial. He is fourth in career slugging percentage at .617, trailing only Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (.690), Ted Williams (.634) and Lou Gehrig (.632).

Pujols numbers in nearly every major offensive category are on a three-year decline. He had his poorest season in 2011 and at 31 is likely to spend the majority of his career with the Angels at designated hitter rather than first base.

We understand that players will go through peaks and valleys of sort, new Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. Albert has spent many years operating at peak, and if we want to call a decline going from superhuman to just great, I dont think weve seen the last great days of Albert Pujols, obviously, or we wouldnt be sitting here today.

Some have speculated he is older than his listed age. Albert Pujols age to me is not a concern, Dipoto said. Im not a scientist. I cant where he is, but I can tell you he hits like hes 27.

St. Louis also offered the slugger a 10-year deal, but he chose to leave the Gateway City for the freeway life.

We are disappointed, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. I would like our fans to know that we tried our best to make Albert a lifetime Cardinal but unfortunately we were unable to make it happen.

The Angels, who finished 10 games behind pennant-winning Texas in the AL West, made the move as the financially troubled Los Angeles Dodgers are in the process of being sold by Frank McCourt in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, a deal that could give the regions NL team a new, wealthy owner. The Dodgers could aggressively bid for talent a year from now, giving them a boost in the regional competition for fans attention.

Winning breeds interest, and we are setting ourselves up to start next season with an opportunity to get good, Dipoto said.

Pujols led the Cardinals to a seven-game World Series victory over Wilsons Rangers, his second title with the team in the last six seasons. He also had been pursued by the Miami Marlins, but they dropped out Wednesday after agreeing to a deal with left-hander Mark Buehrle that raised their free agent-spending to 191 million for three players following deals with closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes. The Angels and Marlins committed 522.5 million to just five free agents.

I think baseball needs to have a steroid-testing policy for owners, said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economics professor at Smith College.

Pujols agreed in 2004 to a 100 million, seven-year contract, a deal that with a 2011 option and bonuseswound up paying him 112.55 million over eight years.

He left a pretty good impact over there. I dont think fans will soon forget what his contributions were, said former Cardinals manager and star Joe Torre, now an executive with Major League Baseball. I still think the St. Louis fans are going to be more appreciative than angry.

Pujols agent, Dan Lozano, split off last year from the Beverly Hills Sports Council to form his own agency, and Pujols negotiations seemed like an attempt to surpass A-Rods landmark 252 million contract, agreed to at the same hotel 11 years earlier.

Pujols rejected a multiyear extension last offseason that was said to include a small percentage of the franchise. He cut off negotiations on the first day of spring training.

This is a footprint contract, because it follows the footprint laid by other great players, said agent Scott Boras, who negotiated Rodriguezs deals. Putting a hitter like Albert Pujols in a big market, where he can be a DH, I think its a win-win for everybody.

Pujols hit 37 home runs last season, running his 30-homer streak to 11 years, and batted .299 with 99 RBIs. He led the Cardinals improbable late-season surge and became only the third player to hit three home runs in a World Series game following Ruth and Reggie Jackson.

Reaction around the major leagues was swift.

For 2012, two wilds cards and no Albert Pujols. Im happy, said Sandy Alderson, general manager of the Cardinals NL rival New York Mets.

Said former Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty, now GM of the NL Central rival Cincinnati Reds: Im a little surprised, I guess. I really thought hed go back to St. Louis. Its certainly good for our division.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

james-franklin-1207.jpg
USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead