SPORTS

Albert Pujols Deadline Passes with No Deal

St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, left, and owner William DeWitt Jr. speak during a spring training baseball news conference Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011, in Jupiter, Fla. The deadline for Albert Pujols and the Cardinals to reach a new contract agreement passed Wednesday with no new deal, making it likely the three-time MVP will test the free-agent market after the season. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, left, and owner William DeWitt Jr. speak during a spring training baseball news conference Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011, in Jupiter, Fla. The deadline for Albert Pujols and the Cardinals to reach a new contract agreement passed Wednesday with no new deal, making it likely the three-time MVP will test the free-agent market after the season. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The deadline came and went, and still no deal.

Alberto Pujols and his team of 10 years, the St. Louis Cardinals, could not reach an agreement on a new contract.

"We are greatly disappointed at this outcome," Cardinals chairman William DeWitt Jr. said at a news conference. "We will revisit it again following the 2011 season, at which time we will again make every effort to keep him as a Cardinal."

The two sides have been at odds about Pujols' deal, which expires after the 2011 World Series.

Pujols, the three-time National League Most Valuable Player and arguably the best player in baseball, set a Wednesday, noon deadline. He has reportedly insisted that, if he and the Cardinals could not come to terms by that time, he would cease talks to focus on baseball activities.

The nine-time All-Star, who was born in the Dominican Republic, is reportedly looking for A-Rod money: The New York Yankees' third-baseman inked a 10-year, $275 million deal after the 2007 season.

The Cardinals and Pujols, however, could reach a common ground by the beginning of spring training.

"We felt very good about the offer we made," Cardinals' general manager John Mozeliak said.

Pujols will make $16 million this season in his contract's final year, with $4 million of the money deferred with no interest.

Despite the slugger's insistence that he's done talking, Mozeliak said the team is still open to negotiating.

"It's not as if he's a free agent at this point," Mozeliak said.

St. Louis said it made an offer at the start of the year and then discussed possible modifications.

"They were lengthy and in depth," DeWitt said of the talks.

The closest Pujols came to an appearance at camp Wednesday morning was a sighting of his black pickup with Missouri license plates in the parking lot of the team's spring training complex.

Pujols was not with the vehicle. The team expects him to arrive Thursday, and teammates say they can't wait to see him.

"It really doesn't matter to us," said Cardinals pitcher and union rep Kyle McClellan, when asked about the ongoing Pujols contract watch. "It's none of our business. It's none of anybody's business. ... The truth is, I've never been on the mound and thinking of Albert Pujols' contract."

A handful of St. Louis position players were at work ahead of schedule; pitchers and catchers are in camp, and position players weren't required to arrive until Saturday.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that he believes Pujols was feeling pressure from the union to "set the bar" with his next deal.

On Wednesday, La Russa insisted that he'd said too much already.

"It was kind of omitted. I said if I was running the union or part of the union, I'm not sure I'd handle it any different," La Russa said, about two hours before the noon deadline passed. "I checked with some of our veteran coaches. It strains credibility a little bit to think there hasn't been any contact or mention. He's too significant."

Union officials have denied pressuring Pujols or his agent, Dan Lozano. And McClellan said La Russa's comments did not create an awkward situation for him, even though as the union rep in the Cardinals' clubhouse, he had to take a decidedly different stance than his manager.

"It doesn't really have anything to do with me. I just represent the players," McClellan said. "All I can do is get the facts that I know, that the union's job is to make sure that the players and agents are informed. They're not going to overstep any boundaries and tell anybody what to do. Everybody's a grown man. They can make a decision for themselves."

La Russa said often Wednesday morning that his focus is on spring training and the NL Central, not what will or won't happen with his slugger.

"We don't want to get our minds cluttered as a team," La Russa said. "There's enough to do. ... The competition in the Central and the National League has got our complete attention. And that's just what we're going to think about. You can choose what you think about. That's what we're going to think about."

He has a .331 career batting average and averaged 41 homers and 123 RBIs. He's also won six Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves. Last year he batted .312 with 42 homers and 118 RBIs and finished second in MVP balloting.

"I don't think there's a better guy for us to have on the team," Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker said. "He's the face of the franchise. You respect both sides of it. You respect what the Cardinals are doing, you respect the management and what Albert's agent is doing. It's a tough situation, as everybody knows. He's an iconic player."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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