Tag Archives: Albert Pujols

The Identity Crisis of the MLB All-Star Game

The MLB All-Star Game has become such a jumbled mess, I doubt anyone – players, league officials, or fans – truly understands what it has become. The main issue with the game is pretty simple: it has no identity.

The MLB All-Star Game, hosted this year in Kansas City, has a number of flaws that the league needs to address.

Bud Selig and the players union decided to add some weight to the game starting in 2003, by awarding the winning league with home field advantage in the World Series. The reasoning behind this decision was to get players to take the game more seriously, since their title hopes depended on it.

Why then, would the league trust the decision making of the majority of the teams’ rosters and starters to the fans, most of whom will vote solely for their favorite teams’ players? The MLB advertises the game as being for the fans; why then is this game more than a lighthearted affair for players and fans alike to celebrate the first half of a season?

The MLB needs to decide which identity it wants its All-Star Game to take because it certainly can’t be both. If the fans are the main say in who is on the team, then get rid of the game’s impact on the postseason and let home field advantage be determined by which team had the better regular season record.

But if Selig wants to keep the All-Star game as a competitive affair, give the fans less power in determining the rosters. If I were a team in contention for the World Series, I would much rather have David Wright at third base than Pablo Sandoval, who is hitting nearly 50 points lower and missed a month due to injury (and this is coming from a Giants fan).

The San Francisco Giants provide a perfect example of why fan voting shouldn’t be the main determinate for the All-Star roster, which was announced Sunday. Their aggressive voting campaign landed them three starters for the NL squad: C Buster Posey, 3B Sandoval, and OF Melky Cabrera. Of those three, only Cabrera is truly deserving of a starting spot, as he has lead or been amongst the leaders in hits and batting averaging for the league for most of the year.

Fan voting goes the other way too, keeping qualified players off the team. Some notable snubs this year include 1B Albert Pujols, OF Andre Ethier, SP Johnny Cueto, 2B Brandon Phillips, SP Yu Darvish, and 1B Edwin Encarnacion, among others.

Even David Wright is facepalming from the ridiculousness of the All-Star Game.

While it’s fun for fans to see their favorite players in the Midsummer Classic, the honor for a player of being selected is almost like an award, and it doesn’t seem fair for fans, many of them not experts beyond their own team, to decide who to honor as baseball’s best. This line of thought doesn’t hold as true to baseball as it does to other sports such as basketball, where small rosters mean making the team is more prestigious. The MLB features at least 1 player from each team at it’s All-Star Game. Which brings us back to the point: if the game affects the World Series, why are unqualified players being chosen to play for it?

Texas Rangers’ manager Ron Washington, who will manage this year’s AL team, has decided to take the fan friendly approach, announcing each player elected to his team will play in the game. Now it’s up to the MLB to decide which of its All-Star Game’s dueling identities to embrace.

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Why Albert Pujols Isn’t Worth Losing Sleep Over

This past offseason, first baseman Albert Pujols signed a 10-year deal with the Angels worth $240 million dollars.

In the early goings of his adjustment to a new city, a new media market and a new league, his production fell off and he is currently batting an anemic .234.

“The Machine” failed to hit a home run in April for the first time in his 12-year career and is not feared nearly as much by opposing pitchers, only earning three intentional walks through 48 games.  In his 2009 MVP campaign, Pujols received 44 intentional free passes.

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Coined in a “This is SportsCenter” commercial, “The Machine” is fitting for a man who has left the yard 452 times in only 12 years.

Many experts now fear that the nine-time All-Star is on the decline after the 2011 season marked the first time he failed to hit .300 and obtain 100 RBI’s in his MLB career.

Here’s what the sensationalists fail to recognize: Pujols hit .299, knocked in 99 runs, led the Cardinals to their second World Series title in seven years and was fifth in the National League MVP voting.

Sure, he’s off to the slowest start in his career.  Even Pujols would agree that a .190 batting average on May 8th is not deserving of $24 million dollars a year—few statistics are.

After all the criticisms of his sudden lack of power numbers, Pujols has seven home runs in the month of May.  Extrapolating that total over the remaining four months of the season puts him at 35 on the year, well over his career minimum of 32 from 2007.

Making the adjustment to a new team is difficult for any player.  Instead of being followed in the lineup by a force like Matt Holliday, Pujols has now been thrust in between Maicer Izturis, a player whose batting average is only slightly better than Pujols’ and Kendrys Morales, who is slowly returning to form after missing nearly two seasons due to a broken leg.

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Morales missed most of 2010 and all of 2011 following a walk-off celebration that left him with a broken leg.

Even something as simple as location can make a difference.  Beyond the centerfield wall of St. Louis’ Busch Field is a pasture of green grass and a dark green wall 100 feet further back.  In contrast, Angels Stadium flaunts a light brown rock structure in left-center that can act as a distraction for new and visiting hitters.

It is small changes like these, in addition to the constant media pressure of Los Angeles, that often prevent aspiring West coast superstars from reaching their same level of production.

Pujols, however, is already a superstar and does not need a major media market to make himself known to the rest of the league.  And he certainly doesn’t feel the need to use the excuses associated with big city slumps.

“El Hombre” is a solid June away from having jokes of his needing an AARP membership completely disappearing.  Reading the box scores every day should let the rest of the league know Pujols’ confidence is slowly building—a nightmare for American League pitching.

If the Angels want to chase down the Texas Rangers and make the postseason, they are going to need to rely on Pujols’ bat and experience.  Judging from their recent six-game win streak, it is clear that a change is already brewing.

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