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CHICAGO _ Don't try to tell St. Louis manager Tony La Russa that money wasn't the driving force behind Mike Hampton's decision to sign with Colorado. The Cardinals badly wanted Hampton to anchor a team that should be favored to repeat in the National League Central.
"Not about the money?" La Russa said, incredulously. "St. Louis is a nice place, but it's not $30 million. (The Rockies) dug deeper."
St. Louis wouldn't have been surprised to lose Hampton to Atlanta or the New York Mets. But Colorado was a shock.
The Cardinals hoped a chance to win would persuade Hampton to accept their offer, which was believed to be about $90 million for six years. He signed an eight-year, $121 million deal with the Rockies.
Cardinals General Manager Walt Jocketty was so convinced he had a good shot at Hampton that he chased him at the expense of other free agents who could have helped. Andy Ashby (Los Angeles), Tom Gordon (Cubs) and Terry Mulholland (Pittsburgh) all signed elsewhere.
As a result, the Cardinals were left paying a high price for pitching. They traded right-hander Britt Reames …