Cardinal baseball, from the girls
Questioning The King
May 28, 2010Posted by on
This post was inspired by a discussion about future blog topics here at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. When Albert Pujols was suggested, none of us gals wanted to touch it. Albert is almost too grand, too sensational. How dare we question the king!
So of course, that got me thinking.
Is it blasphemy to question Albert, his role on the team or his current production?
Albert is the face of the Cardinals, a humanitarian, and considered one of the best baseball players of all time. Countless writers have championed his dedication to the game, his smart base-running, his determination and work ethic. Albert Pujols’ baseball stats are a standing testament to his greatness. There is no denying Albert deserves respect and admiration on his journey to Cooperstown, and we are all lucky to watch him on his way.
Even commercials are dedicated to the immortality of Albert Pujols: “now’s your chance to tell your kids that you saw Albert Pujols do everything”
(This Beyond Baseball Albert Pujols commercial gives me chills – everytime!)
Beyond living history, beyond baseball…
But is Albert really beyond baseball? I’ve had several conversations about Albert Pujols recently… in private of course. Curiously, there are MANY people who shy away from public, potentially critical questioning of Mr. Pujols. So that left me wondering… Is it a crime to think that maybe, just maybe, Albert has some flaws? Would asking the questions make me somehow less of a baseball fan? Would I be forever banned from Cardinal Nation?
Stepping off the ledge …
Much has been written about Albert’s current ‘slump’ during which his batting average fell *gasp* under .300. This month (May) Albert has had one of the WORST hitting months of his career. And with Albert being who he is… much has also been written about how he has had similar low points in previous years and has always recovered with more Albert-like averages as the seasons progress.
But let’s leave the discussion of lagging stats and production to ponder some less obvious and less discussed “Albert issues”.
1) First and foremost, Albert’s habit of running through stop signs is both shocking and curious. While Albert is unarguably an extremely intelligent ballplayer, how does a player so blatantly disrespect the coaching staff? What does this say to a team when one player is above the rules, allowing ego to supersede players’ roles and responsibilities on the field? What kind of example is this to children who are learning the game by watching this Living Legend? Did Stan Musial ignore his coaches at the peak of his career?
2) Being a fan of Brendan Ryan, I must ask: Did Albert’s Gold Glove-caliber defense appear to take a little vacation just when Brendan Ryan’s struggles were mounting? Why could Albert dramatically snag throws at first base from David Freese or Felipe Lopez, but with Brendan slinging the ball to first, Albert often failed to make that extra effort? Could Albert have been playing favorites or was he just frustrated with Brendan’s poorly controlled throws? Understandably Albert is all about the win, but is there such a thing as a team-player who is not a true teammate?
3) How is power balanced between manager Tony LaRussa and superstar Albert Pujols? When it comes to team strategy and decision-making, is it typical for the marquee players to call the shots?
For example, Tony LaRussa has always been adamant about keeping Albert batting 3rd, instead of shifting him to the cleanup position. But recently Albert reportedly went to Tony suggesting he be moved to cleanup, switching batting order positions with Matt Holliday. A suddenly un-Tonylike maneuver brought about by the ‘suggestion’ of Pujols?
Couple that with the recently publicized heated argument between Pujols and LaRussa over Tony’s management of base-running (and base-stealing) with Albert at bat, and my curiosity is further piqued. Are these obvious rumblings between management and player typical or ‘special’ due to the status of Mr. Pujols? Does Albert limit Tony’s ability to manage? How does this affect a clubhouse if one player holds that much influence?
If this were any other player, fans and writers alike would be jumping all over it, but with Albert Pujols there is an unwritten code of honor. Could Albert’s looming contract renewal and the pressure on the front office to lock up the current face of the Cardinals be interfering with the team dynamic and hierarchy?
What happens when a player becomes bigger than the team? when a superstar affects the productivity of other players by the intensity with which that superstar reacts on the field? Truthfully the big question here is would we even be talking about this if the Cardinals bats were alive and bringing wins?
Being a living baseball legend, Albert Pujols’ every move is often examined under a microscope and little imperfections can be magnified. So, is it ok to question one of the best players in baseball? I think so. It might at least spur some interesting conversations. And I don’t really think Albert will mind …