Albert Pujols Is Now the Poster Boy for Baseball

Aren DowCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2009

With Alex Rodriguez admitting to steroid use, ESPN and the sports media were left looking for someone else to now bring them to the promised land.

In an interview Tuesday, the great Albert Pujols provided.

He didn't offer criticism like Jamie Moyer, or a new policy like David Ortiz. No, Albert Pujols delivered what people felt and wanted to hear.

Rodriguez's story is sad, but it is time to move on. Baseball needs to move on.

Pujols could have offered much more criticism, and he would have had a right to do so. Assuming Pujols hasn't touched PED's, he could had three more MVP's in his short career, as Rick Reilly outlines in his latest article.

But Pujols took the high road. Handling the interview superbly, he encouraged fans to judge Alex on the 2009 season and to see how Rodriguez performs after the admittance. Albert was focused on the future.

The future that now belongs to Pujols. There may not be a better man to take on the responsibility.

Pujols is a breath of fresh air. In an era where players like Mark Teixeira can bounce around four teams in 20 months, Pujols wants to stay with the Cardinals his entire career. As a Cardinal fan I like having that stability.

Baseball needs that stability.

I hear fans saying they just want to get back to the game, to watch baseball and not have to think about steroids. Pujols will not be able to cure the steroid epidemic, but he can be the beginning of the healing process.

Pujols has been as consistent on the field as well.

Never missing more than 20 games a season, Pujols has eight years of 30 HR, 100 RBI seasons. His batting average has only slipped under .327 once in his career, when he still hit .314 in his second year. His fielding isn't bad either, receiving a Gold Glove in 2006.

If that isn't enough, here is the clincher. While Rodriguez emblazoned tabloids with Madonna and supermodels, Pujols won the Roberto Clemente award last year. The Cardinal has a "good guy" image, a quality that will go a long way in taking on his new role.

It is that image that already has gained him credibility.

Did Pujols' interview sound familiar to you at all? Maybe it was the Cardinal fan in me, but when I heard Pujols emphasize the future, memories of Mark McGwire's congressional hearing came floating back.

Yes, their circumstances are different, but it will be interesting to see how players and fans respond to Pujols. Four years later, the same words from a different voice might finally be appropriate.

The recent news of Pujols wanting to play with St. Louis for his career came with one stipulation: the Cardinals have to win. Albert is known for his intensity and hard work. In his first several seasons, Pujols would even object to be given a day of rest.

There is no doubt Pujols will be put under intense scrutiny, most likely the same scrutiny A-Rod was under when his home runs were counted down to catching that cheater Barry Bonds. With the power Pujols possesses, he will now have to deal with similar expectations.

Pujols currently has 319 homers, and would need to play 11 more seasons at his current pace to reach 758, four short of Bonds. It is possible, as Pujols would be 39 at the time, just not probable.

No matter if he ends up reaching the milestone or not, Albert Pujols will be remembered as the bringer of a new dawn for baseball.

Assuming he is clean, that is.