PITTSBURGH - St. Louis might be the best baseball city in the country, and Albert Pujols is probably the best player in the game.
Cardinals fans support their team consistently and Pujols produces with machine-like efficiency for the Cardinals.
But things could change dramatically soon.
Pujols is in the last year of his contract, eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.
Negotiations on a new contract have hit a wall because Pujols is seeking 10 years and $250 million.
The new deal would take effect when Pujols is 32, which makes 10 years an incredibly risky proposition.
Most players peak in the early 30s. If that holds true, the Cardinals would be investing mostly in Pujols' declining years.
As good as Pujols is, he's not worth a 10-year investment.
Insurance companies work off actuary tables, which is how they stay in business. There are exceptions to every rule, but there's also a matter of statistical probability.
Your insurance agent can tell you about it.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that the Cardinals offered Pujols a partial ownership stake in the franchise.
This is what it's come to: Giving star players a piece of the team.
That could be interesting.
Imagine the player being on the other end, becoming the one who says no to an outrageous demand.
If the Cardinals are convinced they can't keep Pujols, they'll need to explore trade possibilities.
Get something for him before he leaves. The separation will be painful, but it may be inevitable.
It's just a question of whether it happens this year or next year.
Keeping them happy
Speaking of money distribution, the Pittsburgh Steelers are facing an interesting situation at linebacker.
They tagged LaMarr Woodley as their franchise player, which means he'll probably be signed for about $10 million next season.
Woodley made $550,000 last year.
The salary cap system gives everyone a chance to compete, but it also creates some issues.
That's why most teams employ someone whose job is to manage the cap, in conjunction with the decisions made by the football staff.
The guy who handles the cap deserves a big contract of his own.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.