bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Albert Pujols shows us his best and his worst

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Baseball fans are fortunate to be witnessing one of the all-time great careers right now. We hear all the time about so many great players from the past, such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, and Mickey Mantle. Legendary players who many of us have only heard about but never got to watch play. History is likely to put Albert Pujols into that category, if the first eleven years of his career are any indication. There would appear to be nothing he can’t do. He is the best hitter in the game, is a tremendous fielder, and he makes the St. Louis Cardinals whole lineup better. He is currently attempting to lead his team to a World Series title. As great as he is, there is a bit of baggage there as well. This week, we got to see the best and the worst of Albert Pujols, all within the space of a couple of days.

The Cardinals and Texas Rangers played game two of the series in St. Louis on Thursday night, following a Cardinals win in the opener on Wednesday. The Cards appeared headed for victory, with a 2-0 lead going into the ninth inning, despite Pujols being hitless at the plate. After a single and a stolen base by Ian Kinsler to start the inning for the Rangers, Elvis Andrus singled to center field. Pujols, attempting to cut off the throw to the plate, botched the catch, allowing Andrus to get to second. Both Kinsler and Andrus wound up scoring on sacrifice flies, with Andrus’ run being possible only because he had made it to second on the error. Players, even great ones like Pujols, make errors. Baseball is a hard game, and there are so many opportunities to screw up, it’s amazing that there are as few errors as there are. What can’t be excused was the way Pujols was a no-show for the post-game interviews and press conference. Plenty of lip-service is paid to Pujols being the leader of the Cardinals, but a leader does not strand his teammates that way. The other guys were left to try to explain what happened, which was made more difficult by their desire to not openly criticize Pujols. The slugger will be a free agent after this season, and St. Louis badly wants to bring him back. There is no way this team makes it as far as they have without him, so it makes sense for them to try to cover for him. If he were a true leader, though, they wouldn’t have needed to do so. He would have been there to answer for himself.

Two nights later, Pujols showed why he is the best player in the game. He went 5 for 6 with three huge homeruns, scoring four runs and knocking in six in a 16-7 Cardinals win. All three homers came from the sixth inning on, after the Rangers had cut an 8-3 deficit to 8-6. This was a performance for the ages, and was vintage Pujols. This season was a bit of a down season for him, and it will be a big vindication for him if he can lead his team to the title. I would like to put his “down season” into perspective, though, just for clarity. This was the first time he finished with a batting average under .300 and with fewer than 100 RBI for a full season, but let’s not go overboard. He batted .299 and had 99 RBI. His career numbers are simply ludicrous.

Nobody’s perfect, and this week really demonstrated that well in the case of Albert Pujols. Still, there is no general manager in baseball who wouldn’t take him immediately, were the offer made.

Good sports, continued:

2) Faju Singh ran and completed a marathon in Toronto last weekend. Why is this worthy of mention? Singh is 100 years old. Amazing.

2) American skier Lindsay Vonn won her first-ever title in Giant Slalom last week in Austria. She had won every other kind of title in competitive skiing, so this completes her career “grand slam.”

3) Dominique Davis, the quarterback for East Carolina, set an NCAA record in his team’s win over Navy on Saturday. He completed his first 26 passes, breaking the previous record of 23.

4) You know you are having a tough game when even the other team’s kicker is beating on you. Houston Texans kicker Neil Rackers not only kicked two filed goals during his team’s 41-7 demolishing of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, but he also leveled kick returner Mark Mariani during a kickoff return in the fourth quarter (check out the video).

Bad sports, continued:

2) Two LSU football players were suspended for Saturday’s game against Auburn after violating the team’s drug policy. Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware were reportedly caught smoking some kind of synthetic marijuana.

3) The NFL trade deadline was this week. The Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles swapped backup running backs, with the Lions sending Jerome Harrison and a draft pick in return for Ronnie Brown. Shortly after, though, the trade was voided due to Harrison failing his physical. Amazingly, this turned out to be an extremely fortunate turn of events for Harrison. The physical turned up a brain tumor of which Harrison was formerly unaware and might not have discovered for a long time. He had surgery this weekend and is expected to fully recover.

4) Just before halftime of Thursday’s college football game between Arizona and UCLA, some moron dressed as a referee ran out on the field during a stoppage, blowing a whistle and trying to take the ball from another ref. When he ball was not handed over, the guy took off…literally. He ran toward one of the end zones, stripping off the uniform. The sideshow turned much worse, as the two teams started fighting and both benches cleared.

5) Anthony Conner, a cornerback for the Louisville football team, suffered a broken neck during a collision with a Rutgers player on Saturday. He is not paralyzed and is expected to recover.

6) Mario Balatelli, a striker for the Manchester City soccer team, managed to set his house on fire this week while launching fireworks out of his bathroom window. Sounds like a real genius.

7) Last week, I wrote about the tragedy that occurred at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, when Dan Wheldon was killed in a crash during the IndyCar race. The racing world was shaken again this week, when motorcycle racer Marco Simoncelli died after an accident during a race in Malaysia. Simoncelli was 24. I mentioned that I was amazed that there aren’t more fatal accidents in open wheel racing, based on the structure of the cars and the open cockpit in which the drivers sit. With motorcycle racing, I am honestly surprised someone isn’t killed in every race. That is one seriously dangerous-looking sport.

8) A fan sitting in the outfield for a World Series game in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday was thrown out of the stadium after attempting to interfere with a fly ball hit to St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday. As the ball was headed earthward, the fan tossed a wiffle ball in Holliday’s direction. Holliday still made the play. I hope that fan was not only kicked out, but also arrested. That was dangerous and stupid.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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