Going into the long Labor Day weekend, I fully expected to be focused on the Cardinals
Sure, there was the Mizzou-Illinois
game to attend, and a couple other college football games I found intriguing, and there was the Greek Festival down at St. Nicholas' church. (By the by, memo to the festival organizers: Your outing has become a logistical nightmare, and unless you figure out a better system this will be my last year attending. Not that you care, I'm sure, but it's my column so I get to complain if I want.)
Still, though, even with those things going on, the Cardinals, my
Cardinals, were playing the Cincinnati Reds
, aka The Team Jocketty Gets Credit For Building
, as they desperately try to stay within at least striking distance of the division lead.
It was a huge series, a mammoth series. A series the likes of which you could tell your grandchildren one day (assuming you aren't a misanthropic loner who refuses to consider having children like me), that you witnessed firsthand. Surely, I thought, the city will be abuzz all weekend with talk of the Cardinals.
Well, I was sort of right. There was definitely buzz about the Cardinals. Unfortunately, it wasn't at all the sort of buzz I was hoping for.
I've let this whole thing sit and marinate for a couple days, because I didn't want to just jump in all reactionary-like the way so many other outlets have done and are doing, or go all message-board crazy and start spouting off a bunch of uninformed ridiculous crap. Well, it's set long enough, and I think I can now safely give you all my thoughts on everything that went down over the weekend.
We all know the story by now. Colby Rasmus
, the Cards' occasional phenom centerfielder, requested a trade. Tony La Russa
confirmed it, in fact. And then Albert Pujols
went off on Colby in the press. And then, of course, in true baseball fight fashion, everyone sort of tried to make up, kinda.
The problem with all of this is that Colby didn't just request a trade. No, he requested a trade two months ago, and reports of it just now came out. Which is fine, of course; plenty of times we don't hear about issues and situations until a fair bit later. But what I can't figure out is how in the hell a two-month old trade request (that, according to Colby and John Mozeliak didn't really even happen), turned into this shitstorm.
Actually, I can figure it out. I don't like it, but I know how it happened.
So here's my solution. I'm going to lay it out in a handy, three-point plan.
1. Tony La Russa needs to shut up, keep his business out of the press, and play his best players.
2. Albert Pujols needs to shut up, and next time someone says to him, "Hey, did you hear Colby just said he wants to be traded?" before he decides to go ranting away just say this: "Really? When?" Then decide how to answer.
3. Colby Rasmus, and this hurts me most of all to say because I really like Colby and I think he's widely misunderstood, needs to shut up and concentrate every game instead of just most of the time, and quit taking his job so goddamned personally.
I'm going to tackle point #2 first, because it's the easy one and not really related so intricately. Albert Pujols is one of the best players in baseball. Probably one of the best players in baseball history, in fact. What Albert Pujols is not is infallible. I realize we all tend to think of him as sort of Jesus-like since he talks about him so much, but Albert is just some dude who happens to be really good at playing baseball. When someone asks him for his opinion on another player's life or something they said or did or anything else, his answer is not gospel. So everyone, stop acting like Albert did something saintly by chewing out a teammate publicly for not falling down on his knees to worship at the altar of Tony La Russa and Cardinal baseball.
Beyond all that, though, as I said earlier my real problem with what Albert was simply that he didn't ask for any kind of context at all. Apparently Jeff Passan of Yahoo! sports (and if you don't have a negative opinion of Jeff Passan already you just aren't paying attention), asked Albert if he had heard about Colby Rasmus requesting a trade. Albert responded with his tirade about needing to get the kid out of here if he doesn't want to be here and getting in someone who does want to be here. Honestly, I think that's a fairly good answer, as Albert did at least couch it with, "IF he doesn't want to be here..." The problem is that he didn't take the 1.7 seconds it would have taken to respond, "Oh? When was this?"
If he had said that, and the answer came back, "Oh, about two months ago," I have to believe Pujols would most likely have answered something much more diplomatic, and much of this ugliness could have been avoided.
One more point about Albert, and then I'll let it go. If another player were to publicly comment on how he felt Albert's contract situation being up in the air was a distraction to the ballclub, seeing as how they don't know if their star player really wants to be here for the long haul, how do you think that would go over? I can't imagine the fans, or Tony La Russa, or Albert himself, would be very happy about it. And honestly, it would be a perfectly valid point to make. I know I'm tired of looking at every single move the Cardinals make or don't make through the lens of, "How does this affect a possible Pujols extension?" I'm tired of trying to wishcast the team two years down the road and being forced to assume the team can't make any moves to improve because of the looming gigantic payday which could very well cripple the franchise. And if I'm tired of doing it (it's kinda my job to do that sort of thing, after all), then I'm sure there are at least a few guys in that clubhouse who are tired of it. But they don't say that, because you just don't say that. There's a reason it's an unwritten rule not to discuss other player's contracts and clubhouse situations.
Or, you know, at least just ask for even a little bit of context. Either way.