Don't Blame Pujols: An Apology
And I think it's my fault. Not all thirteen games, mind you; just the one Tuesday night.
Well, did you see how Albert Pujols played? The NL's starting first baseman, top overall All-Star vote getter and consensus Best Player in Baseball went nothing for three at the plate. To make matters worse, he committed an error in the first inning that led to the AL's first two runs.
Yes, Pujols did go on to field his position adroitly before being replaced in the seventh inning, but all told it was an uncharacteristically lackluster performance from the future Hall of Famer, a man who was carrying the weight of an entire baseball-mad (if somewhat down at the heels) city on his shoulders. And now the American League gets the home-field advantage -- again -- when World Series time rolls around.
Last Thursday afternoon I got a call from Brian Bartow, the St. Louis Cardinals' director of media relations. Bartow said the team had seen and loved the Riverfront Times Guide to All-Star Week, a special supplement this paper had published the previous day -- all except the part where we revealed the home addresses of some current and former Redbirds luminaries.
The players, Bartow said, were particularly peeved, especially Pujols. So upset were they, Bartow told me, that the ballclub felt it had no option but to instruct Major League Baseball to revoke the credentials they'd granted Riverfront Times to cover the All-Star Game, and to rescind our credentials to cover the team over the course of the regular season.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: Those petty bastards! How dare they stomp on the First Amendment like that!
No, wait. That's what I was thinking. You're thinking: Serves you right, you puerile little jerk. You disrespect the St. Louis Cardinals by puncturing the protective halo of privacy around their players and personnel and you deserve whatever retribution they want to hand out, and then some.
And you know what? You're probably right. Regardless, you -- and, more to the point, I -- can't deny what would subsequently transpire:
Pujols, having been anointed the centerpiece of the 2009 Midsummer Classic and, at least as important, having been tapped as St. Louis' one-man welcoming committee to the baseball-loving world, only narrowly avoids being knocked out in the first round of Monday night's Home Run Derby, then fails to hit the ball beyond the infield on "This Time It Counts" Tuesday.
Well, the man is only human. And considering the burden he was carrying, it's no wonder a distraction like the RFT All-Star Guide might dull his edge.
All I can say is, I never intended for this to happen.
I know it doesn't help to note that in spite of our reputation for tweaking townsfolk in high places -- including the Cardinals; see Exhibits A, B, and C, and the time we noted that Cardinals pitchers like to go commando -- we took the high road with the Riverfront Times Guide to All-Star Week. It was a classy product all the way, covered in shiny paper stock and 60 pages thick, packed with information assembled by our staff about events and activities, recommendations regarding restaurants and nightlife, an essay by RFT baseball blogger Aaron Schafer and -- the pièce de résistance -- "Inside Baseball: A tour of St. Louis landmarks, from the famous to the infamous (and everything in between)."
In brainstorming that last element, the tour, I had in mind an edifying cultural excursion that would take visitors in town for the game around our fair city and provide incontrovertible evidence that St. Louis is indeed what we always tell folks it is: a great baseball town. To that end, Ian Froeb, who put together the tour, penned a history of baseball as played in St. Louis, compiled lists of great (and not so great) moments at the various local venues where the game has been played, assembled a roster of the final resting places of various local baseball figures, threw in all manner of local baseball trivia and, because I thought it'd be fun, looked up a few of the home addresses of Cardinals personalities past and present, along the lines of those Hollywood "Homes of the Stars" maps.
It could have been worse. We could have been less lazy in seeking out the residential scoop. All we did was to go to St. Louis County's official website, locate the real estate tax database -- http://revenue.stlouisco.com/ias/ -- and search it by owner's name. You type in "Musial Stan" or "Hrabosky Al," and up pops an address. You don't even have to log in.
It was clear after Mr. Bartow called that he and the Cardinals hadn't known how publicly accessible this information is. Still, for days after we spoke, I dreaded opening the paper or turning on the news, lest I learn that a crazed mob had accosted Ozzie Smith at his condo or that someone had burned an Albert Pujols Fathead™ in effigy on a Creve Coeur lawn.
Of course, what actually happened was quite bad enough, thank you. You'll have to take my word for it, I suppose, but I'm an ardent Cardinals fan. In fact, "ardent" doesn't even begin to describe my love for the team (which, I might add, sucked during the entirety of my formative years).
What can I do but apologize?
To the Cardinals (and especially to Albert Pujols), to all of the National League, to all my fellow Cardinals fans, to all my fellow National League fans, to all my fellow Albert Pujols fans (especially my sister, who will probably never speak to me again):