March 1, 2009
When Yankee’s superstar Alex Rodriguez confessed last month that he used performance-enhancing drugs from the 2001-2003 seasons, the richest man in all four major professional sports lost more than his money could buy back.
On top of his respect, health, and future hall-of-fame consideration, “A-Rod” (or “A-Roid”, depending on who you root for), also left open a gaping hole: the prestigious title of “Best Player in Baseball.” Who will be designated that unofficial role now? Enter Cards slugger Jose Alberto Pujols, or as he’s known in St. Louis, “El Hombre.”
Seriously, if you compare these two athletes, the only thing similar is their stats. If A-Rod is the Terrell Owens of baseball, then Pujols is Peyton Manning. When people talk about Pujols, they refer to him as a “machine.”
When Rodriguez is brought up, so is the m-word: “Madonna”—as in the 49-year-old, pop-singer who A-Rod reportedly shared “late-night visits” with. You want further proof on how these two are like night and day off the field? Go no further than their websites. Pujols’ is dedicated to his Family Foundation; Rodriguez’s is dedicated too...well, himself.
Personalities aside, it’s been no secret for some years now that Pujols, the first player to start off the first eight years of his career with a .300+ average, 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs, is considered one of the most feared hitters in the game.
Heck, all 30 major league managers voted last year on who they would least like to face at the plate. The results? You guessed it: Pujols. By a landslide. If you want to keep talking PEDs and Pujols, the best connection he has to ‘roids are the amount of MVP awards he lost to admitted (or revealed) drug users.
A great story by Rick Reilly of ESPN.com shows that, had their MVP trophies been revoked, Pujols would be the only 5-time MVP winner ever in baseball (courtesy of Mr. Barry Bonds).
Have whatever opinion your want on A-Rod, but the bottom line is this: He was supposed to be the best player of this generation. He was supposed to be the poster boy of the MLB. He was supposed to pass Bonds’ all-time home run record of 756 (A-Rod’s on pace to hit 800+ home runs before his career’s over), thereby restoring one of baseball’s most hallowed-but-contaminated records.
Instead, he let too much drama get in the way. He let his ego get in the way—his “stupidity.” And ultimately, he cheated. That doesn’t sound like the Best Player in Baseball to me.
It took guts for A-Rod to admit his wrongdoings, I’ll give him that. But not only did he leave everyone with more questions than answers, he also left all fans thinking he’s no better or worse than any of the other dirty players.
He’s in the same boat as all of them now, a boat that’s getting rather crowded with former superstar athletes. A boat that no one wants to be on, but there’s no way to jump ship.
So, for now, the great Prince Albert has taken up the title. I can only hope that Pujols will take a page out of Spiderman’s (what? they both seem to have super-human abilities) book and remember that with his great power also comes great responsibility.
While no one in Cardinal Nation believes for a second that Pujols has taken PEDs, we know all to well what it’s like for a hometown hero to come crashing down into that same boat. Will Pujols wind up like the rest of the fallen stars? Only time will tell. For now, though, after eight long years of earning respect but being stuck in the shadows of Bonds and Rodriguez, it’s finally time for Pujols—the Best Player in Baseball—to shine.