Lozano Feeds The Hungry Vanity

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Deadspin published this article about Dan Lozano, agent for Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher, among others.

It’s not a flattering piece with allegations of prostitutes, parties, lies, a pliable personality and abuse.

There are now suggestions that Pujols immediately fire Lozano and hire a new agent to negotiate his next contract.

Pujols has stated his support for Lozano, but as this blows up and goes viral, there will be other people popping up and making negative claims about the agent.

Don’t be stunned to see Pujols make a change and hire a new agent soon. Scott Boras probably has an underling preparing a “Pujols Book of Accomplishments” as we speak—just in case.

The story is completely believable and should not be surprising.

Are you under the impression that athletes are represented by fine, upstanding citizens who are only out for the good of their clients?

There are people like that, but not many; athletes—especially those in their 20s—have neither interest nor concern about the reputations of those with whom they consort. They want money; they want to party; they want to be told how great they are; and they want instant gratification. The last thing they’re looking for, just out of their teens and independent for the first time, is to have another “dad” or “coach” telling them what they shouldn’t be doing.

A-Rod’s association with Lozano is questioned in the Deadspin article because A-Rod, with a playing contract ostensibly sealed through the end of his career and a separate representation for his entertainment division, doesn’t need an agent for anything baseball-related. But A-Rod clearly fancies himself as a player. Not a baseball player as an end unto itself, but a cross-cultural businessman with real estate and other holdings to branch out. Part of that is this clear business partnership he’s entered into with Lozano. A-Rod’s amoral behaviors are well-known and unhidden; his split with Boras was something of an estrangement between a parent and child and it’s no surprise he took up with Lozano given these revelations.

Lozano’s a sports agent and he’s servicing the client’s needs and desires by feeding their hungry vanity.

There’s little difference between most player agents and professional wrestling managers apart from one being fictional and over-the-top and the other staged. (You can decide which is which.)

Garnering clients by any means necessary, Lozano’s enabling them, telling them what they want to hear.

He’s a hustler and if he’s willing to go that extra mile to get the clients with no boundaries for state-sanctioned propriety or faux morals, the line of thinking—for a player—is, “he gets things done”.

Even if he loses Pujols, this is probably going to increase his business substantially and he’ll survive.

I’m not defending it nor judging it.

It’s simply how it is.

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The Brewers Poked The Wrong Bear

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Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about the Cardinals.

Much is being made of the series of trades the Cardinals made at mid-season to drastically alter the configuration of their roster that “led” them to the World Series.

In a sense, the trades in which they acquired Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel and Rafael Furcal were upgrades on and off the field; by now it’s clear that Colby Rasmus and his dad, while not being responsible for the Cardinals inconsistency, didn’t fit into the clubhouse profile and it’s better that both sides moved on.

Absent of the deranged, maniacal, head-rolling fallout in Boston, the Braves collapse was just about as bad as that of the Red Sox; without it, the Cardinals wouldn’t have made the playoffs at all.

The Braves lost 20 of their final 30 games to present the Cardinals with the opportunity to make the run back into the picture; the Cardinals also benefited from the Phillies retrospectively ill-fated decision to play all-out in the last three games of the season in Atlanta and kick the door open by sweeping of the Braves.

They couldn’t have known it at the time and the playoffs can turn on one game (as we saw), but the Phillies would’ve been better off playing any of the other teams among the Diamondbacks, Brewers and Braves had they been their opponents instead of the Cardinals.

When Nyjer Morgan (or his sociopathic alter-ego The Real T. Plush) and the Brewers goaded the fading Cardinals with taunts and other foolish temptations of fate, they behaved as a club that thought they were better than they were and had seen the last of the Cardinals.

This had little to do with the Cardinals searing, breakneck month of desperation, but it didn’t help the Brewers cause. They chose to poke the bear and the bear got up, grabbed them by their throats and ripped their heads off.

Along the way, the Cardinals were assisted by practical matters. It’s a nice, neat story to say the Cardinals were spurred on by an act of disrespect from the Brewers—and to some extent they probably were—but circumstances had to fall in a certain way for the classic denouement of a group of warriors led by their stoic hero Albert Pujols and legendary tactician Tony LaRussa putting the arrogant, loud and obnoxious group of upstarts in their collective places.

And it happened perfectly, just like in the movies.

Now we’ll hear other made-for-dramatic-effect nonsense of how this could possibly be Pujols’s final series as a member of the Cardinals; that the fate of manager LaRussa is in question with his contract on a mutual option for 2012.

Here’s are two flashes of Force Lightning to detonate such stupidity: Pujols isn’t leaving; he knows it, the Cardinals know it and baseball knows it. The Cardinals will make a reasonable offer that they can afford and still be competitive; Pujols won’t be embarrassed by receiving a contract far below those of Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder; everyone will remain together and stay as they are.

LaRussa has no desire (nor a landing spot) to go elsewhere at this point in his life and career; the 2012 Cardinals team is pretty much set with manager and star returning in spite of crafted implications of other eventualities.

These are the Cardinals.

They’re in the World Series.

They’re staying together.

As for the Brewers,  they’re going home; if they don’t realize why, they’re either remarkably stupid; inexplicably blockheaded; or oblivious to reality.

I’ll hedge and say it’s all three.

And I’ll be right.

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Chris Carpenter’s Contract And Albert Pujols

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It’s a positive sign for the Cardinals that they’ve chosen to keep Chris Carpenter by agreeing to a contract extension through 2013. The contract eliminates the $15 million option and the $1 million buyout for 2012 by paying him $21 million over two seasons. This decision and that they’re going to exercise the 2012 option for Adam Wainwright means that their starting rotation will be formidable for 2012 with Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Wainwright.

Scott Boras represents Edwin Jackson, so you can forget about the Cardinals keeping him as they need to come to contract agreements with Albert Pujols and/or Lance Berkman.

This is also a precursor to Tony LaRussa remaining as manager. LaRussa has a mutual option with the Cardinals and it’s simply easier for him to stay with the club than to look for another job and start all over again even if it was an agreeable location with a neat story like going back to the White Sox.

What does this mean for Pujols?

Don’t automatically think the Cardinals are going to go insane to keep their star player, but he won’t leave. You can forget about the $200 million that was floating around as what Pujols wants. It’s notable that this “demand” came from voices other than Pujols himself. He’s not getting that from the Cardinals; he’s not getting that from anyone.

What hurts him on the open market are the other available first basemen Prince Fielder and Berkman and possibly Paul Konerko via trade. It works in the Cardinals favor that Pujols doesn’t want to leave St. Louis and they don’t want him to leave; because he’s so entrenched with the club and in the community and he never hired Boras as his agent, he’s not going to demand an Alex Rodriguez-style contract to be the alpha-male of baseball with the contract to prove it.

Pujols is this era’s Joe DiMaggio; he’s proud but not greedy just for the sake of it; nor is he going to look to extract every last penny from the Cardinals by means of extortion, emotional and market-driven.

That doesn’t mean he’s going to take short money or an offer that would be perceived as insulting for a player of his stature; under no circumstances should Pujols be expected to take substantially less money than inferior players like Ryan Howard, but with the Cardinals taking steps to get their financial house in order by extending Carpenter and exercising Wainwright’s option, they’re keeping the longtime core together to make it reasonable for Pujols to take less money than he would be entitled to in comparison to that which A-Rod received.

They could let Pujols leave if things get out of hand; Pujols could seek a larger offer elsewhere, but like Derek Jeter and the Yankees last year, the rest of baseball knows the reality with Pujols and the Cardinals and won’t bother making a competitive offer.

Part of the reason he’s going to stay is the alteration of Carpenter’s contract; part of the reason is the doesn’t want to leave; and part is that the Cardinals won’t let him leave.

The Carpenter contract extension is another piece to that puzzle.

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