Saturday, April 22, 2006

National League Pitchers Lobby For "Pujols On Pujols" Series

On Friday night, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols belted his 11th home run of the year in a 9-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Coming off an MVP season, Pujols has been on fire in the early stages of 2006. Any attempts by the opposition to cool him off have been futile. However, National League pitchers are desperately hoping that one thing can slow down Pujols: his own reality show.

ESPN is currently running Bonds On Bonds, a 10-part reality series focused on controversial San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds. Each year from his record-setting 2001 campaign through 2004, Bonds was the National League MVP. Barry was like Biff from Back To the Future, striking fear in all the George McFlys on the mound. After an injury-shortened 2005, Bonds looked to resume his bullying on the diamond this April. However, Bonds On Bonds may represent the same turning point for pitchers that the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance was for George. Through his first 13 games of the season, Bonds is batting just .200, with no home runs and 1 RBI.

Finding a similar show for Pujols may be the only hope for National League pitchers. Albert leads the majors with his 11 round-trippers, and he is hitting .358 with 24 RBIs. The numbers are gaudy even by his own standards set since 2001, his National League Rookie of the Year campaign. Since then he has charted a path to Cooperstown, becoming the first major leaguer since Ted Williams to drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first five seasons. Unfortunately for pitchers, they cannot have Pujols frozen like the Red Sox legend. They may try to brush him off the plate, but freezing players like Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back is blatantly against the unwritten rules of the game.

Unfortunately for opposing pitchers, ESPN may not be interested in Pujols On Pujols. Bonds was considered a fascinating subject not only for his stellar play, but also for the steroid cloud surrounding him and his contentious relationship with the media. Pujols does not seem to have such an air of controversy around him. However, Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge disagrees. “Everyone in St. Louis knows that Albert is a notorious jaywalker,” charged Lidge. “ESPN should follow him and expose these heinous misdeeds.” As punishment, Lidge urged commissioner Bud Selig to suspend Pujols from the ninth inning of all future games.

Ultimately, pitchers would love an image of Pujols that viewers saw on the first episode of Bonds On Bonds: a superstar slugger in tears. Bonds got emotional while telling reporters, “You can’t hurt me any more than you’ve hurt me already.” As of now, Pujols could only say part of that sentence to pitchers: “You can’t hurt me.” So far, the opposing hurlers have been the ones bawling, contradicting the claim of Tom Hanks that there’s no crying in baseball. St. Louis sports reporters already know that weeping takes place in the sports world, since Dick Vermeil coached in their city.

While Pujols continues to dazzle the National League, pitchers will hold out hope that a reality show can help their cause. Until that happens, tomorrow may represent the best chance to slow down the Cardinals superstar. The resurgent Greg Maddux, leading the National League in ERA, will take the mound for the Cubs. Albert’s hometown of Santo Domingo is Spanish for “Holy Sunday.” As Pujols steps to the plate on this Sunday, Maddux will surely be praying.