Saturday, February 25, 2012

Prince Albert in a Can

From afar, I have always been a fan of Albert Pujols. It bears mentioning -comfortably ensconced on my Throne of Hypocrisy - that Mr. Pujols' entire baseball career to date has taken place in a league about which I care little. However, since effective Opening Day 2012 his mailing address shall have an "AL" and not a "NL" zip code I am willing to admit that my opinion of him may decline in direct relationship to how much damage he inflicts upon the Yankees. Being Irish, I am by nature a pessimist. In my mind's eye I can already see Hughes turning his head to watch a Pujols bomb descend into Monument Park in an October game.

After helping the Cardinals win the World Series in 2011, Mr. Pujols signed a contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that can, I think, fairly be described as jaw-dropping. During his eleven-year career in Saint Louis, Pujols was the most consistently dominant offensive player in the National League. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2001. He made the NL All-Star Team nine times. He won the NL MVP three times. He won the MVP of the 2004 NLCS. He won six Silver Slugger awards. He was voted the Major League Player of the Year three times.

His excellence off of the field is matched by his excellence off of it. In 2008 Major League Baseball honored him with the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to a player who demonstrates the values Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others. Each club nominates a player in September. The winner is selected from 30 nominees during the World Series.

Albert Pujols was many things in Saint Louis. One thing he chose not to be was "The Man". Why? Because in Saint Louis "The Man" is Stan Musial. During Pujols' career with the Cardinals, he and Musial became acquainted with one another. At some point in Pujols' Cardinals career, when fans and media tried to anoint him "The Man" Pujols told them to stop because he felt it was disrespectful to Musial. They stopped.

Apparently the Angels either knew nothing of Pujols' feelings on the issue or - if the public statements of their Vice-President for Communications (apparently with everbody EXCEPT for the guy they just signed to a guaranteed quarter of a Billion dollar contract) are to be taken at face value - cared not one rat's ass about them. This offseason the Angels' marketing campaign centered on Pujols. They purchased seventy billboards throughout southern California. Among the seventy are twenty "El Hombre" billboards.

When Pujols arrived in Arizona to begin Spring Training, he made it clear to the assembled media that he finds referring to him as "The Man" in Spanish in 2012 on billboards in SoCal to be as disrespectful to Stan Musial as he found it to be in English back in 2010 in Saint Loo. From Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:

Albert Pujols is the focal point of the Angels' 2012 marketing campaign, which includes 70 billboards throughout Southern California, most featuring the new slugger and several that refer to the former St. Louis Cardinals star as "El Hombre," The Man.

Pujols, however, asked the St. Louis media and fans two years ago to refrain from calling him "El Hombre" because he felt it was disrespectful to Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan "The Man" Musial. And those feelings have not changed now that he's in Anaheim.

"I feel the same way," Pujols said before Wednesday morning's workout in Tempe Diablo Stadium. "I had nothing to do with [the Angels billboards]. They haven't talked to me about it."

Is Pujols OK with the Angels using the nickname in the future?

"I haven't made that decision, so I haven't talked to them about it," Pujols said, "but I prefer they not use that."

Pujols' stated reason for honoring Musial as "The Man" is not limited to the Hall-of-Fame career Musial had in Saint Louis. "I still have the same respect for him as I had, not just for what he's done in baseball but for what he did for his country [which includes having served in the Navy during World War II and has worked extensively with the United Service Organizations, as well as several other groups and charities. Last year, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor," Pujols said. "That's something you have to appreciate."

Unless you are the Vice-President for Communications of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Tim Mead. Mead apparently is the only V-P for Communications working for a Major League team who has a 10-year guaranteed contract that shall pay him in excess of $250 Million. If he does not in fact have such a contract, then he must be the most obtuse person currently working in the greater Los Angeles (or is it Anaheim) area. Again, from Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:

Mead said the team is not required to seek approval for how a player might be portrayed in an advertising or marketing campaign, adding that "El Hombre" has a different meaning in Southern California than it does in St. Louis.

"The reason he had those sentiments in St. Louis is different -- they were out of respect and deference to someone else," Mead said. "He was saying, 'I'm not The Man, Stan Musial is.' We're marketing Albert Pujols, Angels baseball, and I just think there's a tremendous difference in context."

Albert, I must admit that I am not bi-lingual. I am in fact barely uni-lingual. I feel confident however that I can translate Mr. Mead's statement into Spanish so as to maintain the spirit of the off-season advertising campaign....

"Me Muerde"


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