ST. LOUIS — A red sea of fans jammed downtown St. Louis on Sunday to honor the World Series champion Cardinals and send a clear message to Albert Pujols: Please stay.
An official crowd estimate was not immediately available for the parade down the streets of St. Louis and the celebration at Busch Stadium, but city officials expected several hundred thousand, and it was clearly that.
Pujols drew loud cheers along the parade route and a long standing ovation at the stadium. When asked on the podium if he'd like to be back for another celebration next year, he smiled and said, "Hey, why not?"
Whether that happens remains to be seen. After 11 Hall of Fame seasons as a Cardinal, Pujols is a free agent for the first time and it isn't clear if the Cardinals will be able or willing to give a long-term contract to a player who turns 32 before next season, despite his career .328 average and 455 homers.
The biggest cheers appeared to be for Pujols, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter and David Freese, who was Most Valuable Player in both the NLCS and the World Series.
The celebration was the culmination of a four-day party that began with the stunning win in Game 6, when the Cardinals rallied five times and in two straight innings were within a strike from elimination before Freese won the game 10-9 with a homer in the 11th. Friday's 6-2 win in Game 7 set off a frenzied celebration.
Fans were still jubilant about the amazing turnaround. "It just seemed improbable," said Chris Ambrose, 24, of Chesterfield. "It's one of the greatest World Series runs of all time."
Tame town: After the last out Friday, thousands flooded downtown to celebrate, but fans were well-behaved, city officials said. There were three arrests for disturbing the peace, and police are seeking a suspect in one assault.
High ratings: Game 7 of the World Series averaged 25.4 million viewers to make it the most-watched baseball game since 2004. Before that series, in which the Red Sox won their first title in 86 years, the high mark was another Game 7 — the 2002 World Series between the Giants and Angels. Game 7 on Friday earned a 14.7 fast national rating.
Report: Yankees send offer to ace Sabathia
NEW YORK — The Yankees made a contract offer over the weekend to ace CC Sabathia, who has through today to decide whether to opt out of the four years and $92 million remaining on his current deal and become a free agent. Sabathia, 31, has gone 59-23 with a 3.18 ERA during the regular season for New York.
More Yankees: General manager Brian Cashman, whose three-year contract expires today, is expected to sign a new three-year deal today, New York's Newsday reported. The team picked up the club options on Robinson Cano ($14 million) and Nick Swisher ($10.25 million) Saturday.
Free agency: Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez were among the 148 players who became free agents Sunday.
Rollins, who turns 33 in November, said he is seeking a five-year deal, and K-Rod hit the market after his $17.5 million mutual option expired. In addition, the Brewers declined a $6 million club option on shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who gets a $2 million buyout. Other notables whose options were declined included Braves outfielder Nate McLouth, Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook and Padres right-handers Aaron Harang and Chad Qualls.
Decisions on club and player options must be made by the end of the day today. Free agents can start signing Thursday.
Red Sox: Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin and Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum are among those scheduled to interview for Boston's managerial opening this week, general manager Ben Cherington told ESPNBoston.com. … The team exercised its $6 million option on shortstop Marco Scutaro, 36, for 2012.
Giants: Javier Lopez, 34 and one of the majors' most reliable lefty relievers, agreed to a two-year $8.5 million deal to stay.