I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan. And so, my favorite player in all of baseball is Mr. Pujols.
But I have a question, a serious question, though it will sound crazy.
Here's the situation, last night in Cincy, playing the Reds. Cards down 3-0, looking dispirited. Men on first and second, two outs. Idiot Reds reliever walks Hoffpauir, bringing up the only real threat in the Cards lineup....Mr. Pujols.
The Reds bring in a righty reliever, to do the righty v. righty thing. This reliever is a wily veteran, David Weathers, with 18 years of major league experience. But (and I like big buts, you know I cannot lie), Mr. Pujols is 9 for 18 lifetime against David Weathers. Just wears him out like an old sock.
To complete the setting, remember that following Mr. Pujols in the lineup is Ryan Ludwick and then Rick Ankiel. Both very good defensive outfielders. But neither of them bats over the "Munger line" (my current weight is 240 lbs; Ludwick is batting .235 and Ankiel is batting .230).
Summary: 8th inning, two outs, you are ahead 3-0, the next two guys in the line-up are in deep slumps. Your bullpen is the best in the major leagues (Cincy has an amazing bullpen).
Do you pitch to Mr. Pujols? It is radical to suggest, but I say: No, you do not. Walk him. Yes, I know the bases are loaded. But. Walk. Him. It's still just 3-1 and neither of the next two batters are likely to do anything except fly out.
They pitch to Mr. Pujols.
Mr. Pujol hits a long homer, a grand slam, the big salami with extra cheese and pickles. Even Mike Shannon, who has been drunk since 1973, notes in this video that "maybe you think about walking him."
Next inning, in the 9th, he* hits an RBI double, winning the game for the Cards. Look, the rest of the Cards, not counting pitchers even, have a team batting average of .240. Albert is batting .340, with 82 RBI, 31 homers, and a slugging average of nearly .750.
Why don't they walk him? Even with the bases loaded? Baseball has this silly macho thing, instead of just trying to win.
Anyway, I do want to thank Cincinnati, and manager Dusty Baker, for giving me such a fine thrill this morning when I watched the video of Mr. Pujols single-handedly beating them. But I don't understand WHY they did that.
Every team says, "Don't let Pujols beat us." And then Pujols beats them. Because they pitch to him.
Reminds me of the old Groucho Marx joke. Guy comes running in to Groucho's office (Groucho is pretending to be a doctor). "Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this." Groucho: "Don't do that." Well, it hurts when they pitch to Mr. Pujols. Don't do that.
*Pujols, not Shannon