Looks like Albert Pujols has received more attention this season than he did during his entire stint with the Angels. He was named an All-Star for the first time since 2015 under MLB’s new Special Selection designation. The Cardinals let him pitch during the ninth inning of a blowout. His peers have been pleading for a retirement tour with all the kitsch you can stomach, which he’s getting now. Nelly helped him celebrate a home run this week. And now he’s going to the home run derby.
At this point, the only thing to do about Pujols’ extended goodbye is just accept it.
I know it was tough to maintain the level of notoriety he had in St. Louis when he was in a roster with Mike Trout, but he sure missed being relevant. If the angels were ever good, there would be a lot of kind words to spread. It never does – as Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Pujols can attest – and I don’t blame the Hall of Famer for wanting to take one last nap in the sun. I would also be rejuvenated if I spent the last decade as a rusty Disneyland attraction.
That said, St. Louis is going with a stranded legend the first year where he can use a dedicated bat works as well as they could have hoped. He’s hitting .220, with 20 RBIs and six homers. His .695 OPS doesn’t rank in the top 100, but he also doesn’t make enough board appearances to make ESPN’s league-leading list either. It’s great that Pujols is coaching part-time rookie/DH Juan Yepez, who has five more home runs and seven more RBIs than his sensei in 70 other at-bats.
The problem is that the offense is backed by its two (legitimate) All-Stars and could use consistent production, ideally from the specifically created position to increase the score. If you merge the Cardinals’ top two DHs, their combined output is essentially 66% Paul Goldschmidt or Nolan Arenado — not Goldschmidt and Arenado, Goldschmidt or Arenado. Of St. Louis’ 394 RBIs, both sluggers have 123. This team feels destined to succumb to the same flaws that have killed it in recent years.
I’m sure I could find the player with the fewest dingers at the All-Star break to enter a home run derby, but that stat is wrong with Shaq’s career 3-point percentage (.045) on the island of the forgotten / depressing numbers. However, if the six Pujols circuits are not the lowest, it must be close.
We have reached the existential juncture of this room where I ask what is going on? In what universe does Albert show off his warning track power at a national showcase a good idea? He knows this isn’t an old-timer’s softball game, does he? (Or the rebirth of MTV’s Rock N’ Jock).
There’s a reason Vince Carter said there’s “zero chance” he’ll enter the 2020 dunk contest. While it’s still impressive that he could rise to over 40 years, it inspires far less admiration when done next to a 19-year-old with age-uninhibited bunnies. There was a time when Albert didn’t need a kick to generate power, activate fastballs with stoicism about him. Now he needs every bit of that lift to scrape the balls over the left field fence.
Dunking and hitting moonshots aren’t the same thing, so it’s possible the announcers will fill Pujols’ lap with cries of disbelief. Either way, the odds are strongly in favor of those oohs and aahs instead of being cringe and Karl Ravech and Co. losing interest as opposed to their shit.
Before a bunch of St. Louis fans get even angrier at me, shouting obscenities and things like “This isn’t for you” and “You don’t have to watch,” let me t ‘Stop. I’m a card fan. I may or may not have shed a tear when he chose to go over the moon. It’s specifically for me, and I still prefer him to take an AB during the All-Star Game, get a standing ovation, and go back to the dugout.
He has earned the right to participate in the All-Star festivities of his choice. It’s just that… the team are two games back in the NL Central, two and a half years from the last wild card spot, with a failed rotation, and it looks like they might need a another rally in the second half to make the playoffs. They’re 23-30 against teams over .500, have won two series in the past month and are coming off a 6-0 lead against the Dodgers in the last three innings.
If it didn’t look like Pujols’ farewell tour was going to be the highlight of the season, it would be a lot easier to enjoy.