First off, anything written about St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols should begin with a sentence along the lines of “He’s the greatest player in the game today, and the best player so far in the 20th century. And, probably, one of the 20 greatest players of all time.”
He didn’t do much in this week’s series with the Mets, in which the Cardinals lost three of four — just three hits in 12 at-bats, one run scored, two RBIs, and no home runs (though he drew four walks). But that’s just a blip in Pujols’s incredible season in which he is leading the National League in home runs (26), RBIs (70), runs scored (57), on-base percentage (.446), slugging (.700), and total bases (175). And I left out intentional bases on balls (23). He’s also stolen 9 bases in 73 games, his highest total since 2005.
Do I need to justify all those “best player” claims? Just consider this: Pujols has the highest batting average among current players (.334), the highest slugging average (.628), and the highest on-base plus slugging average (1.054). Since 2003, he’s led the league in total bases four times and runs scored four times. He’s also won two MVP awards since 2003 and has placed between 1st and 4th in the MVP voting every year but one since 2001.
Is there anything else? Yes, he has averaged a fraction under 40 home runs and a fraction over 122 RBIs per season for the previous eight years and is on track to surpass both those averages this year. Like Hemingway’s definition of a great novelist, Pujols isn’t competing with his contemporaries: he’s competing with the dead. These are numbers that would have looked healthy under the names of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams.
So, one wants to know, why is Jerry Crowe such an asshole?
This is from Crowe’s June 23 column in the Los Angeles Times:
“Thanks to Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, etc., fans outside St. Louis must wonder, ‘Do we celebrate Albert Pujols or suspect him?’ . . .
“Pujols has batted four times with the bases loaded this season and three times has hit grand slams. . . .
“In his only other at-bat with the bases loaded, the St. Louis Cardinals slugger delivered only a two-run single. . . .
“Sadly, it makes you wonder. . . .”
It does make me wonder. It makes me wonder why Crowe puts “…” at the end of his sentences — as if he’s actually giving us something to think about. It makes me wonder if Crowe knows anything about baseball or whether he was transferred to baseball from a hockey beat.
It makes me wonder whether Jerry Crowe is an irresponsible jerk.
As any batboy can tell you, four at-bats are an absurdly small sample for anything. (What conclusions would one come to, for instance, if you judged Pujols by his 13 at-bats in the recent Mets series? That he was a lousy hitter?) And, as any amateur baseball analyst can tell you, great sluggers are always better with the bases loaded, which is why Lou Gehrig hit 23 grand slams in only 14 seasons.
If Crowe has any evidence at all that Pujols has used performance enhancing drugs, he should put it out there. If not, he should apologize and stop using Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, etc. to smear Albert Pujols’s reputation when in fact it is Crowe himself who is doing the smearing.