Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Questioning The King

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 …

5 responses to “Questioning The King

  1. Neal May 28, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    >It is okay to question him. Sure it is! Get your stopwatch, I'll give you 5 minutes……….Now that were finished with that, bat him 3rd and play him at 1B for 150+ games, and sign him….Any other questions?Seriously, the issues raised are legit, but so are the numbers he produces. Superstars are afforded special treatment because they produce special numbers. As for the lack of effort on Ryan's throws, I have watched the same games and never saw it. Sometimes we see what we want to see. I played 1B from age 7-28 and when it comes to digging a ball out of the dirt, it takes a certain type of short-hop for an effective scoop. If you don't get the right hop, you don't swipe at it for fear of launching the ball who knows where with a deflection, so blocking it is the best bet as a second choice. Albert plays it the right way most of the time. Now on his running through signs, I somewhat agree. But the fact is that they let him do it without consequences at the beginning of his career, and when that happens you get what we see on the base paths today.If these things bother us too much, we need to be very careful what we wish for, because it could be a lot worse than what we have now.

  2. Erika May 28, 2010 at 10:07 AM

    >Thanks for the comments Neal! I agree we have a very special player in Albert, and would not trade him for anything. Enjoyed your point about the right kind of hop at 1st – something those of us without playing experience would never know. And yes, my membership in the Brendan Fan Club was most definitely skewing my opinion there, but I still had to wonder… =)

  3. Susan May 28, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    >It's ridiculous to even consider that AP wouldn't put all out effort into catching a poorly thrown ball. I watch almost every game and the ones he misses are way too high or right or left and simply cannot be caught.As for running through stop signs, I don't think there's anything his coaches can say or do to stop him from trying to score. The man is obcessed with scoring runs and winning ball games.And I think the argument between TLR and AP was WAY overblown by the media. Personally, I like to see a player get p*ssed off when plays aren't made or balls aren't hit. Who wants a team that isn't passionate about what they're doing?Finally, it's a big weekend in Chicago! Let's go out and kick some scrubbie butt! GO CARDS!!!

  4. Erika May 28, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    >Such great comments, Susan! Thank you! Looking forward to this Cardinals vs Cubbies match-up today!Go Cards!! :)

  5. Neal May 28, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    >We may not always agree on how to get there, but we all want to be in the same place: Watching the Cardinals win the World Series. When fans don't care, then we have a problem. Love the site, so keep the thought provoking articles coming!

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