I was listening to one of the 33 sports-talk programs currently on the air here in St. Louis on my way into work , and it appears everyone in town with a legitimate MLB media credential (and some without) has an opinion on former Cardinal first baseman, Albert Pujols.
This week’s inter league matchup marks the first time we’ve seen El Hombre up close since his defection in the winter of 2011 to the Angels of Anaheim— or whatever they are deciding to call themselves this year.
Much of what I heard focused on the decline in Albert’s play since he left town and the fact (which I agree with) that the Cards dodged a huge bullet when Artie Moreno, owner of the Angels, decided that $254 million over ten years was what it would take to land “El Hombre”. The Cardinals, as we know, didn’t agree.
Albert didn’t help matters the other day when he implied in an interview that he was still bitter over the way the Cardinals front office handled his departure. I believe he used the term “thrown under the bus” when referring to the team management and certain members of the media. Albert has done a lot of good for many in St. Louis over the years–his charity work throughout the region is well-known and appreciated, but he can be a little…how should we say…sensitive when it comes to public criticism.
Most of the great ones are.
But to some, more than a few, Albert committed one, unpardonable sin…he appeared ungrateful to “Cardinal Nation.” The result? Near joy among some in the media (who don’t like being called out) at his sore knees, sagging batting average and an OPS (On-base plus slugging) number that is downright Rasmus-like. (Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the Colby reference.)
It’s amazing though that we’ve come this far–we’re actually taking delight in his extended slump this year. (BTW, for Albert, an “extended slump” still amounts to 13 HR’s and 49 RBI’s–not typical AP numbers by any means, but he’s hardly Tino Martinez either. (Remember his one season with the Cardinals?)
I heard a couple of sports guys on the air waxing poetic, speculating that if the Cardinals and Angels were playing at Busch Stadium, St. Louis fans would boo #5. Really?
Maybe some fans would boo–those who are aching to be outraged by something…anything, no matter how small the perceived slight. I think most Cardinal fans though, are smart enough to remember the good times (2 World Series championships) he helped give us, and would respond accordingly–with the standing ovation he deserves.
At least I hope so anyway.
In case you forgot, here are a few of those good times:
Bernie Miklasz wrote a terrific article in today’s Post Dispatch, “5 Things To Admire About #5”
And if that’s not enough, enjoy a few visual reminders: