A Matter of Trust

Manny. Oh, Manny. Why must you continue to be Manny? The world tired of it long ago, and yet you continue to dominate highlights with your weirdness. I still can't believe you cut off a ball in the OUTFIELD! Everyone knows the cutoff man is someone in the infield, not you. But they all laughed, said "It's just Manny being Manny," and showered you with accolades and praise.

And now where are you? In the proverbial pits for something that was at worst cheating, and at absolute best pure stupidity. Cheating? Only if you have been taking steroids and were trying to cover your tracks. Stupid? Because you're taking something that is not only banned, but is well known as a cover drug for those who have been taking steroids. Why on earth would any male take fertility drugs made for women?!? Where is the sense in that?

Well, maybe you can chalk it up to Manny being Manny. Except this time, being Manny got Manny suspended until the All-Star Break (almost).

Why do I bring this up? After all, why should some left fielder who used to play for a team I hate and now plays for a team I care little about deserve his own blog post?

Well, the answer is because this post isn't about him. Not really, anyway. It's about me and the best player in Major League Baseball right now (sit down, Kip Wells. I'm not talking about you, now or ever).

The thing about stories like "Manny using a banned substance" is that they always bring up the inevitable, if not silent question- "Hmm, I wonder who else is using." Then the speculation starts, and the big hitters on each team unquestionably come under baseless suspicion. I say baseless because often there's no evidence to accuse another player except stellar numbers perhaps. People think "Chipper Jones/Derek Lee/Albert Pujols- they must be using something because it's inhuman and unlikely they could reach those numbers on their own.

Well, I'm here today to state my opinion, one to which I will hold to the bitter end: Albert Pujols is clean, has always been clean and will always be clean. I will hold this opinion up to the second someone hands me incontrovertible evidence saying otherwise. And even then I might not relent. Why?

First, two articles have been written in the last two months about Albert, his personal life, his character, and his outlook on the world. You can read them here (Sports Illustrated) and here (USA Today). In them, Albert talks about his motivations and priorities in life, and sure enough, they aren't on the ball field. What matters most to him in life is his family and God, and those are his inspirations. He clearly states that he doesn't want to be most remembered for his accomplishments on the field; he'd prefer to be best known for what he did away from the field. Albert is heavily involved in his family and in charity work, two things capable of creating a legacy that will outlast any baseball records.

Second, there's been nothing remotely close to evidence showing anything but pure talent and hard work. The tendency or PED users is generally okay-to-decent seasons, followed by several years of excellence, after which usually come years of decline. I use Barry Bonds- he's always been an amazing outfielder, that's no dispute. But he was a real skinny guy at first. Then when home runs started saving baseball in the court of public opinion, all of a sudden Bonds' muscles and head grow three sizes. I'm no doctor, but generally speaking people get smaller as they age, not bigger. Bonds appears to be the exception.

Albert, on the other hand, has shown amazing talent from day one. No other player has hit at least 30 home runs and batted at least 100 runs in for each of his first five, six or seven seasons. Albert is at eight and counting, with all indicators at this point showing a ninth year. Want a comparison? Only two other players in history have had at least 8 consecutive seasons with those stats (at least 30 HR, 100 RBI): Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Pujols' worst season to date is better than a lot of players' best seasons. PEDs? He doesn't need them. Besides, he has the most perfect swing in all of baseball- no wonder he goes yard so much.

Finally, he just doesn't fit the mold. This opinion comes from watching him for the last 8+ years. Is he competitive? Of course. Does he want to win? As much as anybody. Will he do anything it takes to excel and be the best? I don't think so. He'll do what he can, but I don't think he'll ever even approach the road of PEDs. He is as intense as anyone on the field, but he doesn't strike me as the player who needs to be the best to feel like he's earning his place. I think Albert does what he can and works on what he can't (which shouldn't take long, since he can do just about anything). When the time comes for him to call it a day playing baseball, I don't see him as the kind of player who will either try and stretch his career out to ridiculous lengths (Julio Franco, I'm looking at you), or turn to steroids to try and resurrect his past abilities (*cough* Roger Clemens *cough*).

So there you have it: Albert is, has always been and will always be clean. His name should always be above suspicion whenever steroids dominate the water cooler talk. It won't be that way, because there will always be cynics and naysayers. But if Albert hasn't earned the respect that should keep him out of such talk from such people, I don't know if he ever can. All I can say is he's made a believer out of me.

Hail to the King!


Peeser said…
Amen to Pujols. He is a good man, and a good man can be hard to find in competitive sports. It is sad that so many people want to tear them down with false accusations in an effort to prove that they are just as fallible as everyone else. It is like Juli has said about Hollywood having a difficult time showing integrity in the movies- it seems the world in general has a difficult time believing that someone- especially a professional athlete- could have true integrity and obtain success honestly and with hard work and effort, values that are increasingly falling by the wayside as the world seeks for quicker, easier answers than those tried and true principles.

Thank you, Albert Pujols, for providing a model of what a good man truly is.
Thank you, Steven, for this noteworthy tribute to a noteworthy athlete.

(Nuts to you, Manny.)
Emily S. said…
Add my AMEN. Nicely stated, well-written... and LOL at Manny.

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