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Albert Pujols plays the “you never played the game!” card

Aug 28, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT

pujols getty Getty Images

Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times has a piece about Albert Pujols. One which acknowledges the obvious — Pujols now is not what he used to be — but that he still has his value and his moments and how he’s still producing just fine for the first place Angels.

Pretty standard story for when a former all-world star ages and loses a step. And Pujols has a pretty standard retort to anyone who has the temerity to note that, no, it’s not 2008 anymore, unfortunately:

Age and mileage on his legs have, inevitably, dimmed Pujols’ brilliance. But he’s far from washed up, and said he learned to ignore critics who snipe from afar without all the facts.

“Those genius think that, why they don’t come and try and hit a ball? They’re sitting behind a desk or punching numbers in a computer or writing in the paper. That’s what their job is, to try and be negative towards the players,” he said. “But they don’t know that this game is tough. This game is not easy. You can be 100% and it’s not easy — imagine when you have injuries. At the end of my career, I will know what I have accomplished in this game. At the end of my career, then we can look back. If I can play the seven years I have left on my contract we’ll see where we’re at.”

Yeah, if only there was some objective standards — some metrics — by which one could see the decline in a baseball player’s performance and which would justify them making the innocuous and factual statement that he’s not quite as good as he once was. Sadly, no such thing exists and we’re all forced to shut up unless we actually go and face major league pitching.

This stance bugs the hell out of me. Mostly because when athletes say such things they’re railing against non-existent critics. No one with any sense or reason says that Pujols is a bad person because he can’t hit like he did when he was 27. No one thinks he’s particularly unusual in terms of his career arc and (relative) decline. To the extent his contract is criticized it’s not a personal thing — who wouldn’t take that money? — and criticism of it is leveled at the Angels for offering it, not for Pujols accepting it. Show me the “critics who snipe from afar” who say such things. Because I’m not sure who he’s talking about here.

[ RELATED: Is Pujols’ contract still worth it to the Angels? ]

More generally: we don’t live in a world in which only those who do a thing are capable of talking about that thing. No one who writes about music thinks they can play the guitar like a rock star, but they are certainly capable of talking about how a band isn’t as good as it once was. No one (well, no one with self-awareness) who writes about politics thinks they could lead a nation, but they are certainly capable of talking about a politician failing to fulfill his or her promises. And no one who writes about baseball thinks they can hit a major league fastball, but we’re certainly capable to noting when a hitter is in decline. And Albert Pujols is in decline.

If Pujols needs to compare himself to his critics in this fashion to motivate him, well, whatever works. But if he hopes to change any minds with such an approach voiced publicly, good luck.

104 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. masher1965 - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    What a funny article !! Craig Calcaterra whines that Albert Pujols is whining about being criticized to the nth degree. Well, ok, Pujols over reacted , hey ballplayers are humans too and maybe he was just not in the best of moods, it happens to us all. No excuse but it does happen. Pujols got skewed over his contract, ( funny thing is , no one who complained about it would turn it down ) and we all know he isn’t playing anywhere near his prime years. So, he went off a bit. If this is the worst he goes off, big deal .
    As for being butt hurt , Craig Calcaterra , come on down !! The media is great for creating a mountain the size of Jupiter out of an anthill. So, a fellow news media got chewed on, GOOD !! Now go wipe your eyes and get a backbone

    • infieldhit - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      Well, that was certainly a strong reaction…

      And if I were happy playing in St Louis, I wouldn’t have turned down their initial offers either.

    • kwhyh8strm - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:18 PM

      When this contract was first offered to Albert I knew it was bad for the Angels. You can’t blame him for taking the money, But everybody knew that his productivity for the next 10 years would not warrant this type of money. I know deep down in his heart he wished he had stayed in ST. Louis where he was highly “revered”, but Big Bucks and a chance to win it all, overode his
      heart, and now the Angels are stuck!!

  2. johnmr12 - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    Albert doesn’t get it. Baseball is a business, and in the world of business, an employee gets paid based on the value they bring to the company. Albert is one of the highest paid non pitchers in the game, meaning he is expected to bring tremendous value to the company. If a utility infielder making a couple mil a season gets criticized for not performing, maybe he has the right to say how hard the game is. But Albert, if the game is really hard, and you want everyone to know that the writers could never do what you do, they don’t get paid 25 mil a year. The reason you get paid that much is because the game isn’t supposed to be hard for you. I knew the angels were making ANOTHER huge mistake when they signed him to such a big contract. You could see his skills declining and injuries happening more at the end of his stint in St Louis. That’s why the Cards didn’t try to compete with the angles on such a ridiculous contract. Of course, DiPoto didn’t learn his lesson, and signed Hamilton to an almost as ridiculous contract, even though the folks in Texas knew his skills were declining as well. I think the angels are the only team in baseball with a clean up hitter who has fewer than 10 home runs. Scoscia is making a fatal error by keeping him in that slot thinking he will somehow find his power.

    • tmc602014 - Aug 28, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      Dude, I don’t know where you work, but I have seldom seen employees pad for the value they bring to the company. Budget are created by the company to determine how much they will pay for the value they get, with a cut to the managers, HR, investors, and a multitude of others who create no value. In sports, the pay is based on past performance. No ne can argue that the Angels made a mistake with Pujols and Hamilton, but it’s not a mistake on the part of Pujols or Hamilton.

  3. Mikhel - Aug 28, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    Craig writes to criticize columnists (or proper journalists, not merely bloggers) who criticize players, but now is criticizing a player for criticizing a columnist who criticized a player.

    It would be funny to read an article by Craic Calcaterra criticizing himself for criticizing a player who criticized a blogger or columnist.

  4. twinfan24 - Aug 28, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    By Albert’s logic, that must mean that 99.9% of people can’t complain about Congress, and at most times in history, fewer than 10 people can complain about the President, since no one else has held the job. People can observe without having to do something.

  5. stlouis1baseball - Aug 29, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    I will be eternally grateful for everything he gave the Cardinals organization.
    This in mind…it is becoming obvious A.P. is getting crankier and crankier by the season.
    Perhaps the new environment (and him no longer being coddled, worshiped, idolized like he was previously) is playing a role in that. As they say…you made your bed. Now lie in it.

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