With less than a week to go before the Albert Pujols contract deadline passes in St. Louis, it's just about time for speculation to begin in earnest.
So with the two sides far apart, could the potential free-agent slugger wind up with the Cubs in 2012?
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Sure he could.
But before Cubs fans get overly excited, let's be realistic.
Regardless of what Pujols or the Cardinals say about deadlines, they still have more than eight months to go before free agency, so this is hardly the end of their negotiations.
And even after free agency begins, Pujols can merely use the Cubs and others as leverage against the Cards if he likes.
There's also little chance the Cubs would get involved at the years and price Pujols is asking, which is reportedly in the neighborhood of 10 years and $275 million.
It's true that the Cubs have $57 million coming off the books at the end of this season, but Tom Ricketts is trying to buy time while he waits for more wretched contracts to dissolve, and at the moment he isn't looking to add another mega deal.
Interestingly, the wild card here is the fans themselves.
If the Cubs suffer through another rotten season, and fans stay away in droves again, Pujols might be just the panic button Ricketts decides to push.
Of course, if the Cubs are that bad again, surrounding Pujols with bad just makes the Cubs a little better than bad.
As great as he is -- he might go down as the best first baseman of all time and among the top five hitters in history -- Pujols is 31 and the last three or four years of a 10-year deal could be dreadful, something Cubs fans know too well and have lived with the last couple of seasons.
So spending $25 million-$30 million on one player might be fine while he's worth it, but it's an absolute payroll nightmare when that player starts to fade.
Assuming Pujols isn't on HGH, his production will start decreasing by the age of 35.
That's normal for most baseball players not on drugs, so eating up a fourth or fifth of your payroll for one guy who's not producing is a good way to wind up where the Cubs have been the last couple of years.
Let's also not forget that the Cubs won't be the only team in the bidding.
There will still be the Cardinals and maybe some surprise teams, like the Dodgers -- if they get their ownership situation settled -- or the Giants, Braves, Rangers, Angels, Red Sox or Yankees.
The last three all have outstanding first basemen, but if the Angels have a bad year anything's possible, and the Yanks and Red Sox will find a way to make it work and be creative if they get a sniff that the other's involved in the bidding.
Plus, Prince Fielder will be out there and he might be a great alternative, being that he's left-handed, four years younger, several million dollars cheaper and will take fewer years.
So the next week will be frightening for Cardinals fans and fascinating for Cubs fans as the Cards and Pujols talk -- or don't talk -- contract.
Still, whatever happens this month we must remember there's a long way to go before Pujols actually leaves St. Louis.
But if he does, he'll definitely give Cubs fans something to dream about.
You can tell it's close to pitchers and catchers when you hear Jake Peavy all jacked up about the upcoming season.
Peavy said Tuesday he's at "about 60 to 70 percent" right now and believes he has a chance to be ready for Opening Day.
He also said he intends to be smart about it and not risk a setback. That's easy for him to say now, but in the past Peavy's been incapable of dialing it down.
It's up to the White Sox to make sure he doesn't do something foolish. Four months from Peavy this summer would be a gift considering his injury, and five would be unexpected.
Opening Day doesn't appear realistic, and the Sox ought be very, very careful here.
Coach and QB
There's Mike Martz and Jay Cutler, and then there's Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers.
"His consistency at quarterback and care for the ball allows me to call a very aggressive game," McCarthy said. "He makes smart choices and protects the football, so I have the freedom to use the whole playbook."
NBC's Jay Leno: "Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told everyone, 'If you see something not right at the Super Bowl, let somebody know.' Immediately after Christina Aguilera sang the national anthem, 50 million people called."
TBS' Conan O'Brien: "President Obama had a Super Bowl party which featured food from both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which explains why he tested positive for diabetes the next morning."
And finally …
CBS' Craig Ferguson: "There's a Super Bowl party every year at the late-night talk show hosts' clubhouse. It was a bit awkward when Jay Leno was looking for something to cut the cake with and Conan said, 'Why don't you use the knife you put in my back?'''
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