Saturday, December 10, 2011

Was Albert a pain in the Pujols?

Whenever a top-notch player or coach leaves (and for whatever reason), it doesn't take long for the image of that person to change.

One needs to take a look at what is taking place in State College, Pennsylvania, for one example of that. There, former football coach Joe Paterno has in the minds of many finally been exposed for what he was. The announcement that Mr. Paterno has cancer didn't slow down the vitriol that some people had been building up for decades. It's been unleashed in a torrent.

For another example, look to St. Louis, where at least one reporter suggests that Albert Pujols, who left the Cardinals for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is the typical arrogant athlete who never deserved the devotion he received.
With Thursday's news that Pujols has agreed to a 10-year, $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Cardinals officials, players and fans are finally permitted say what has gone unsaid far too long -- that Albert Pujols is a pain in the rear. ...
And yet ... for the hundreds of people who work for the Cardinals, and for the majority of the thousands upon thousands of fans who have asked Pujols for an autograph or a handshake or the smallest of words, the three-time National League MVP is, well, terrible.
Having now covered sports for 17 years, I've witnessed few professional athletes who show greater disrespect and outright disdain for loyalists than Pujols. He is a man who, during spring training, walks from station to station with his head down; who responds to "Albert, we love you!" not with a smile or a nod, but with cold nothingness. When people call his name, he almost never gazes up. When people ask for an autograph, he doesn't even bother with a "Not now" or "Try me later." Instead, he turns to devices that men such as Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent perfected in the recent decades -- the steel-faced, how-dare-you-even-talk-to-me, ignore-the-world two-step.
The Kansas City Star takes a slightly different approach, suggesting that the contract that the Angels agreed to will eventually turn out to be their own kind of Pujols. And CBS Sports argues that in taking the money and running, Pujols is just like any other "mercenary" who cares for more money than loyalty.
Pujols could have been Derek Jeter. He could have been Cal Ripken. He could have been Ernie Banks or Ryne Sandberg or, yes, Stan Musial. 
Instead he'll be Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez or Gary Sheffield, just another big-bopping mercenary playing out the string in a city he chose because it offered the biggest selection of his favorite color: green.
And if there's one thing sports fans don't have tolerance for, it's a mercenary who isn't earning his keep.
That day will come for Pujols. By signing this contract with the Angels, Pujols has guaranteed it. It's a 10-year deal worth more than $254 million, one of the biggest in U.S. sports history, and it comes with a full no-trade clause. Which means Pujols will be earning somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million -- close to $200,000 per game -- when he's 41 years old.
Any idea what Pujols will be hitting when he's 41? Me neither, but it won't be .334 with 41 home runs and 124 RBI, which is what he averaged for the first nine years of his career.
And as for those numerous 5 jerseys in St. Louis? One church has come up with a great idea.

There's a lesson there.

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