La Russa believes players union pushing Pujols

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said first baseman Albert Pujols and his representatives are being pressured by the players’ union during contract negotiations.

Pujols is eligible to become a free agent after the World Series and has set an 11 a.m. CST deadline today to reach agreement on a new deal.

Pujols has vowed to cut off negotiations once he arrives at spring training, perhaps today. La Russa said Tuesday he thinks the three-time NL MVP is being pushed to set a new standard with his contract, and he said that’s unfair to the player.

Alex Rodriguez’s $275 million, 10-year deal with the Yankees is baseball’s current high.

“I know what he’s going through with the union and to some extent his representatives because his representatives are getting beat up by the union,” La Russa said. “Set the bar, set the bar. You’ve got to deal with it. It’s not the way it should be.”

Pujols has played his entire 10-season career with the Cardinals and has repeatedly said he would like to stay with the franchise.

“We’ve had no discussions about numbers with Albert or with (agent) Danny Lozano or with any of his representatives,” union head Michael Weiner said during a telephone interview with the Associated Press. “Albert is a very experienced, sophisticated, intelligent player. He’s got good, experienced representation. We’re always available to consult with players, but there’s been no discussion of numbers and clearly no pressure at all.”

General manager John Mozeliak said it’s not necessary that a deal be signed today, but the sides would need to have agreed to terms.

Pitcher Adam Wainwright, who spent three seasons as the Cardinals player representative, said the union’s job is to make as much money as possible for the players.

“At the end of the day you have to do what’s right for you and your family,” Wainwright said. “The union I think understands that. Their job is to make sure we get the most that we can. That’s what they’re paid to do and that’s what we pay them to do and that’s why we need them.”

La Russa thinks Pujols can overcome any pressures and make the decision that he believes is best for him.

“Albert is very smart, very strong and is going to make a really good decision,” La Russa said. “I know that he’s getting pressured and it’s not arm twisting, it’s dropping anvils on your back through the roof of your house.

“I think it’s unfortunate whenever it happens, not just Albert, it should just be about looking at everything to determine what’s your best deal. There’s enough money, nobody is going to suffer. The union is not going to suffer. The bar is not going to suffer.”

La Russa said he’s seen too many players being controlled by the union.

“The whole time I’ve around it’s been a factor, for a long time, a long, long time,” he said. “I’ve had a number of players over the years that have looked at money first and regretted it later.”

Pujols, a nine-time All-Star, is the only player in major league history to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first 10 seasons. He has a .331 career batting average and averaged 41 homers and 123 RBI.

He’s also won six Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves. Last year he batted .312 with 42 homers and 118 RBI and finished second in MVP balloting.

“I want Albert to do the best thing for him,” Wainwright said. “He deserves that and we as teammates realize he’s had such a great impact here.”

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