Jeff Pearlman’s recent column about Albert Pujols at JeffPearlman.com (http://www.jeffpearlman.com/albert-pujols-and-the-treatment-of-people/, to be exact) is interesting, in that it provides a firsthand account of the way Pujols treats Cardinals fans when he has the chance to interact with them.
The only time I’ve seen Pujols interact with fans is at the Cardinals Winter Warmup, and his approach is similar to that described by Pearlman in his column. I’ve never thought it was that big of a deal, but apparently there are people who think it is.
If Pujols gets the money that he’s asking for – and nobody outside of Pujols, his representatives and the Cardinals front office knows for sure how much that is – he’s not going to get it because of how he treats fans. The fact of the matter is, Barry Bonds, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez didn’t get big money because they treated fans well. They got it because they could hit.
There’s never been a better guy than Mike Matheny. But the Cardinals had no trouble watching him walk away to San Francisco after the 2004 season. Matheny was a .231 career hitter who never hit above .261 for the Cardinals, but even the fact that he lived in St. Louis and was a great guy didn’t prompt the club to pay him a bunch of money.
Miguel Cabrera got into a physical confrontation with his wife after a night of drinking, yet the Tigers gave him a $152 million contract. And he can hit. Like Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr., was perceived as hot and cold by some. He got a big contract because he could hit.
Griffey’s successor as Seattle’s superstar, Ichiro, is said to be able to speak perfect English. Yet when the media wants to interview him, he insists on an interpreter. But, Ichiro can hit, and the negative facts about him are overlooked.
In Pearlman’s column, he says 617 fans were on hand to get Pujols autographs. While he may have disappointed some of them, he thrills 40,000 a night for 81 home dates in St. Louis. My dealings with Pujols have been positive, but the fact of the matter is, most people don’t care how he treats media and other fans. I certainly don’t. Albert Pujols is a baseball player. He’s not a politician; he’s not a teacher mistreating kids.
Pearlman is the only person I’ve read or heard of complaining about this. In my opinion, it’s no biggie. There are a lot of great guys on the team. My advice to fans is to try and get an autograph from Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot, David Freese or Lance Berkman. Shake their hands. And then when the game starts, like Pujols for his ability, not his autograph.