At seemingly every opportunity, many baseball media members take the time on Twitter, TV, and sports websites to remind baseball information consumers that Albert Pujols remains in a slump of monumental proportions. These people almost take delight in delivering bad news, and the degree to which some seem to revel in making these deliveries has gone beyond the norm. Spreading unbiased information as news remains the primary objective of the mainstream sports media, but many members deviate frequently from being a vehicle for transporting news to being framers of that news.
As a baseball fan, I want to know how star players are playing in the context of how their play impacts their respective teams. If Pujols continues to hit below .200, that unexpected tidbit still remains secondary to how the Angels perform as a whole. As of right now, AP’s average sits just below the Mendoza line, but the real issue for the Angels is that they started the day 8 full games behind the Rangers. Sure, Albert’s struggles form a significant portion of that story, but ignoring Chris Iannetta (.197 avg) and Peter Bourjos (.192) as part of the problem does a disservice to baseball.
Sure, Pujols currently has an OPS of just .514, but letting everyone know that his OPS places him 87th in the AL just 1 spot above Brendan Ryan skews the perception just a bit. Maybe the intention is to draw attention to just how poorly Brendan Ryan is hitting. If so, then that should be a separate story. Instead, it appears that someone pairing the 2 together wishes to target a specific audience. In fact, the target obviously is Cardinal Nation.
Although I cannot speak on behalf of Cardinal Nation, I can speak for a few people who count themselves among the fans in Cardinal Nation. While we may have been hurt/miffed/upset/disgruntled with the way Albert handled his contract situation and the result, we lack the capacity to truly hold a grudge. We were fortunate enough to watch a once-in-a-lifetime player for 11 years, and we’re in a good place right now. That’s not to say that some aren’t enjoying the fact that Albert isn’t exactly being Albert for once, but that attitude should not be mistaken for the collective consciousness that helps define Cardinal Nation.
While we may not wish to see him hit .400 and win a triple crown, most of us aren’t spending any time wishing him ill, either. Maybe it’s karma or simply a form of empathy directed at someone whose human condition we cannot fully comprehend, but Pujols is NOT hated in St. Louis. Consider the welcome that Chipper Jones received last night. The ovation gained so much momentum that Yadier Molina visited the mound to allow a few more seconds for the crowd at Busch to express appreciation of Chipper’s career. Does that sound like the kind of mob mentality that could put together enough negative psychic energy to hate a man who helped keep a team consistently relevant for 11 years?
Ignore the average, the lack of home runs, and the way he appears a little lost at the plate while swinging at pitches outside of his normal hitting zone. Forget the base running errors and growing surliness during interviews. Albert Pujols will hit. The man with 446 career home runs and nearly 2100 hits will hit his stride, and he’ll tell you when he does. Just don’t bother rushing to stir up a stink with Cardinals fans, because we already know it will happen. While we may not cheer it, we certainly won’t begrudge it, either.
The title “Best Fans in Baseball” truly belongs to no team’s fans. Every fan base has outliers and a dynamic, ever-changing core that can consistently impress and surprise. That’s not what differentiates the good from the great. The good can revel in a team’s success and/or a player’s accomplishments. The great can honor those things, even when it isn’t their favorite team or player responsible for them. Maybe we won’t embrace him quite the way we used to, but we won’t shun the man, either. He’s earned the right to do just about everything short of tapping Yadi’s shin guards, and even that might not be off limits. So you can stop shoving negative news about AP in our faces. We’re just not that interested, and lack of interest is not good for business when your job depends on driving Nielsen ratings, unique page views, and gaining Klout.
Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, because I still laugh at AP’s TOOTBLANs the same way I did when he played in St. Louis!