Pujols for Howard? MVPs unfazed by trade buzz

By The Associated Press

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard? Let’s just say the MVP sluggers don’t plan to pack their bags anytime soon.

Talk of a megatrade kept baseball buzzing Monday following an ESPN report the Philadelphia Phillies were thinking about asking the St. Louis Cardinals if they’d like to swap star first basemen.

Pujols didn’t appreciate the speculation.

“There’s people, stupid, that like to write something when it’s not the truth, and that’s all I have to say about that,” he said as the Cardinals visited the New York Mets for an exhibition game.

“If I’m getting traded, they need to come to me. That’s not my job to go to them,” Pujols said. “I’ve been saying all along I want to be here, but whatever, it’s not up to me. I just think somebody tried to be funny, but it’s so stupid when somebody takes something like that serious.”

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. denied his team had discussed a trade and used “lies” and “ridiculous” and “irresponsible” to describe the report, which ESPN based on unidentified sources.

“I really don’t have anything to say about it,” Howard said at the Phillies’ camp in Clearwater.

“Truthfully, I can go back to all the stuff that happened when I was in Double-A — all the talk about trade rumors. I don’t know anything about anything. I’m not really focused on it. If that were the case — I don’t know if it is or not — it is what it is. You just keep going out there and doing your thing. If you get a call saying you’re traded, then you’re traded. Until that happens, I’m still a Phillie. I’m still here. Let’s ride it out.”

The mere mention of a Pujols-for-Howard quickly became the talk of baseball, where fans thirst for big trades.

The two-time NL champion Phillies acquired ace Roy Halladay from Toronto in a multiteam swap last winter that also sent Cliff Lee to Seattle, but blockbuster deals are rare, especially when it’s a straight-up swap of superstars.

Perhaps the biggest 1-for-1 deal in sports was one that never occurred.

Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams were in their prime when the Yankees and Red Sox talked about trading the future Hall of Famers. It would’ve been interesting — Williams taking advantage of the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium and DiMaggio aiming at the Green Monster — but it never got done.

Pujols and Howard are each 30 years old, have both led their teams to the World Series championship and can become free agents after the 2011 season.

Pujols is a three-time MVP and has been an All-Star in each of his eight seasons since making his major league debut with the Cardinals. He’s had at least 32 home runs and 103 RBIs in every year, is a career .334 hitter with 366 lifetime homers and has walked more than he’s struck out.

Howard, who’s from the St. Louis area, was the 2006 NL MVP. He’s put up monster totals, too, since being drafted by the Phillies and is a two-time All-Star. If there’s a knock on him, it’s that he strikes out twice as much as he walks.

Like Pujols, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa didn’t want to hear any more about a possible trade.

“To come up with that one is abusive. To the extent that anybody takes it seriously, it could distract the Phillies, it could distract here. I am pretty sure neither is happening,” he said.

“Our organization plans on making Albert a player to start and finish his career here, and Albert has said he wants to stay here, so why would anybody want to start speculating?” he said.

La Russa said he hasn’t spoken to Pujols about the rumors and doesn’t plan to unless the player brings it up.

“I look at every player everyday and if I see anything that looks a little different with a player, I say, ‘Hey, what’s happening?’ If Albert looks any differently, I’ll say, ‘What’s happening?’ If he says, ‘You know, am I going to be traded?’ I’ll (talk to him),” La Russa said. “Otherwise, I treat it like I treat everything else. I see Albert today and he’s exactly like he always is, so I’m not even going to talk to him about it.”

La Russa said it would be a waste of any club’s time to try to trade for Pujols.

“I don’t think any team would kick it around because they know he’s not going anywhere,” he said.