The Wrong Kind of Hero, Apparently

Alan Barra wants to know why no one, outside of baseball fans, knows that Albert Pujols is the one of the greats among contemporary players: Pujols Is Baseball's Best

In his rookie season in 2001, Mr. Pujols burst into the major leagues as a star, batting .329 with 37 home runs and 130 runs batted in. Since then he has been more consistent than beer sales in the sixth inning. Mr. Pujols has the highest batting average and slugging percentage of any active player. Since his rookie season, in 2001, he has won the National League's Most Valuable Player award in 2005 and 2008, finished second three times, third once and fourth once.

And yet, to the average fan outside baseball-mad St. Louis, Albert Pujols is just another very good player. Why hasn't he achieved fame commensurate with his performance? Playing his entire career outside of baseball's media centers probably hasn't helped.

Neither has the fact that Mr. Pujols -- married, the father of three, and active in the cause of Down Syndrome, which afflicts his oldest daughter -- has never earned a single headline for off-the-field activities. "He isn't colorful and he isn't controversial," says his manager, Tony LaRussa. "He's just great."

Great, and perhaps too consistent for his own good. Mr. Pujols has several nicknames. To Cardinals fans he is "El Hombre," but the name many players around the league refer to him as -- "The Machine" -- indicates respect yet generates no excitement. How can you get excited over a machine?

The article forgets to mention that he carries himself with pride and dignity, and also that his disdain for steroid users comes across in his interviews, even if he never says anything out loud. American popular culture needs about 100 Albert Pujols, but it can't even gin up the interest to pay attention to one. After the BS stats of the Steroid Era and the BS financials that brought down our economy, maybe it's time we turned to real heroes like Pujols. 

You know, I honestly blame the media for the failure to make someone like Pujols into a more well known figure; as it would much rather give relentless, repetitive coverage to train wrecks and prima donnas, rather than to guys who show up for work everyday and do their job. I would also blame MLB, which actively promoted stars who were on the juice, while good guys like Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, and Mark Texeira languish in relative obscurity. 

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