Albert Pujols has been the model of consistency in Major League Baseball for the last decade. Regarded as one of the best hitters of his generation, Pujols is an amazing offensive talent—a great slugger who also hits for contact and rarely strikes out.
Combine that with good defense as a first baseman and you have one awesome baseball player.
He is a solid postseason player too, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series twice (2004, 2006) and winning once (2006).
Pujols is the player the MLB needs to market around for a simple reason: he never is mentioned in the ongoing steroid conversation.
If baseball is to ever get rid of the ongoing media frenzy over performance enhancing drugs, it needs to find a player that fits the mold of a steroid user who is clean, and make him the face of the league.
That player is Albert Pujols.
Baseball can convey the message that it is attainable to hit 40 home runs, drive in over 100 runs, and hit over .300 without using performance enhancing drugs.
While Pujols is baseball's best player and marketing talent, any steroid accusation would be costly. If Pujols is found unclean, which there has been no indication of thus far, baseball will have lost the last great slugger of this decade to PED's.
If Pujols is found dirty, baseball will not recover for a very long time, and many of its records and stats from this decade will be highly questionable.
Other than Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr. is the only slugger of the last 20 years who is considered clean by most. But Griffey Jr. is way past his prime, and not nearly performing at the level he was in the 1990's for the Seattle Mariners.
So Pujols is the best present solution. It is possible for Evan Longoria or Hanley Ramirez to be the face of baseball, but not yet.
Pujols is the LeBron James of baseball, and should be marketed to the extent of what the NBA has done with LeBron. Put Pujols in commercials for My MLB, ESPN, and the new MLB Network. Put him in magazines, newspapers, and billboards.
The perfect place to showcase Pujols' greatness would be the 2009 MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis. Make him the spotlight in his hometown in front of the best baseball players in the world.
If Pujols is willing to be the face of his sport, then Major League Baseball will follow.
While baseball enjoys being the only major sport playing in the summer, come September and October, the NFL will cut a severe hole in baseball's TV ratings.
Baseball needs its best players in the playoffs because early regular season NFL games earning higher ratings than playoff baseball in October is embarrassing for the league.
After another solid start to this season, baseball needs Albert Pujols to continue to help the Cardinals earn a berth into the 2009 playoffs because not only do the Cardinals want to be there, but baseball needs Pujols in October.