With the MLB All-Star Game balloting scheduled to close on June 28, one staple of the Midsummer Classic—Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols—has been notably absent from among the top players in the fan ballots.
It’s for good reason that they’re leaving him out, as he has suffered from the worst start to a season in his professional career since joining the Angels in the offseason as a free agent. Though he has come on lately and turned things around with a .311 BA in his last 20 games, he has too much ground to make up to statistically compete with the elite first basemen of the American League, barring a major power surge.
Currently fifth (per Yahoo! Sports) among AL first basemen in votes, there's a chance Pujols could find himself left out of the 2012 All-Star Game.
Pujols is a consummate professional, and he certainly hasn’t had issues with staying motivated in the past. But given the severity of his early-season slump, he’ll likely take anything that can get him back on track. He will walk right off the field and straight into the Hall of Fame one day, but for now, he has more work to do.
As a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols built up a lot of goodwill and trust between he and a smart, loyal fan base. If he were to go through a substantial slump surrounded by familiarity and fans that knew him, he might not have found himself in such a severe predicament.
In Southern California, though, he still has to prove himself to a new set of onlookers, with the added pressure of his pedigree and outstanding credentials adding to the already lofty expectations—not to mention an exceptionally large $240 million contract.
It’s a lot for anyone to take on—even one of the best hitters to ever play the game. Though fans like to think of him as 'The Machine,' he’s only human. That’s never been more apparent than in 2012. With respect to the All-Star Game, it seems as though fans understand the reality that he’s just not at his best right now.
For a player with the pride that Pujols has, this has to bother him and drive him to get better. He’s at a place in his career where he’s never been before—both literally and figuratively. If he fails to appear in the All-Star Game in 2012, it could be just what he and the Angels need in order to get him re-energized and become what they need him to be—a professional hitter with power that strikes fear into opposing teams.
It’s what the team paid him for, but more importantly, it’s what he wants for himself.