The Pujols Awards: Week 3

I’m getting the sneaking suspicion that it’ll be easier to get nominations for “Luis” than it will be for “Alberts.” I guess it’s appropriate when you consider how many ways MLB manages to tick off its fans. Love the game, but not those in it; it’s like a rose—beautiful to behold but loaded with pricks. As one wag put it (in a different context): These guys could screw up a wet dream.

Ah well.

Without further ado…

The Alberts

Jim Kaat

Kaat was a tremendous, borderline Hall of Fame pitcher, outstanding glove man (as good as Greg Maddux in that regard), terrific broadcaster (My favorite moment was after the 1992 World Series when he was interviewing series MVP catcher Pat Borders. He seemed to regard Borders with a degree of what almost looked like paternal pride. Although Borders batted .450 in the Fall Classic, it was his handling of the pitching staff that was especially key to his MVP was being a barrier that no bad pitch would pass. In that regard, Kaat seemed to appreciate what Borders did. Kaat really seemed to be enjoying the moment as much as Borders) and thoughtful commentator.

Speaking of which, Kaat had a very thoughtful balanced take on MLB’s ‘steroid era.’ Kaat is candid, realistic and balanced in his thinking. I don’t agree with everything in the article, but it is one of the better reads on the situation. I felt it was worthy of an “Albert.”

Nate Robertson

Robertson came out and said, “I think it’s ridiculous to pay baseball players what we get.” I agree and disagree with his sentiment. On the one hand, it’s the players creating revenue and they’re entitled to their fair share—on that point, I disagree with Robertson. On the other hand, salaries are high because revenues are high. Revenues are high because MLB siphons off billions in tax revenues through stadium swindles, a legal monopoly, huge tax breaks and creative accounting. Although it will never happen, I would like to see true free enterprise in MLB where they have to survive in the same marketplace in which every other business has to exist. If the game had to do business in such an environment, salaries would be lower.

Regardless, it’s always nice to see a player comprehend that they have it good. Too many modern players have forgotten the sacrifices made by their predecessors under Marvin Miller that enabled them to be in a position where they can enjoy that level of compensation. For having what appears to be a sense of gratitude regarding where time and circumstance saw fit to place him, Mr. Robertson gets an “Albert.”

Scott Spiezio

Spiezio did one the hardest things it is for a guy to do:

“To try to self-medicate yourself because you’re too macho to admit that you need help was what I dealt with for a long time … finally I just said, I have to be mentally strong and well to contribute what I want to contribute and live the life that I’ve lived my whole life.

“A long time ago, depression, I thought that was all [bunk]. Anxiety. But it’s the truth. I felt it first-hand and it was an eye-opener for me. All those people that I thought were making up stuff, I started going, ‘Geez, they’re going through a lot of stuff.’ When you’re not educated on it, it’s easy to get off track with things.”

It takes guts to face one’s demons in a constructive way. For those of you fortunate enough to be spared the affliction, well … we’ve heard the common cliché for happiness ‘I’ve died and gone to heaven;’ clinical depression is like waking up and finding you’ve gone straight to hell. I went through it after a horrific truck accident in 1991 that required years of rehabilitation to regain the use of my legs.

It was during this time that due to the injuries, the medications I was on and the fact that my body no longer responded to the requests made by my brain (tough for an athletic guy in his late 20s) I lapsed into a depression that stole about three years of my life and that of my family. It’s as if a sadistic demon has gotten into your head and has taken over your thoughts and emotions. It tells you that the most kind, caring and loving thing you can do for your family is to have them find you hanging from a rope in the basement of your home.

It makes perfect sense. It’s logical, rational and what any compassionate person would do for those he loves. You wish to free them of the burden of your life.

Homestretch: The 1967 AL Pennant Race, Part 3
A tight race shows no signs of letting up.

I got out—thank God. It took time, love, medication and having an insightful family physician that was also a personal friend (thanks again Jamie). The hardest part was looking in the mirror and saying, “This isn’t normal. There’s something broken and I need to find out what.”

I speak from experience that it’s the hardest thing against which to fight. The battle to regain the use of my legs was a cakewalk compared to that. You can fight your body mano a mano but exorcising the demon screaming in your brain requires a team effort. It’s not easy to enlist a team to help you in the battle—not after you’ve spent the bulk of your first three decades of life convinced you’re damned near bulletproof.

Spiezio gets an “Albert” for fighting back when feeling too exhausted and beaten to attempt it.

The Luis

All 30 owners and Bud Selig

Bud Selig has had his contract extended for three more years. He has done what the owners have asked of him—created a lot of revenue for MLB. This is reflected in the fact that he pulls down more than most players per year. Of course, a lot of that revenue is what should be devoted to schools, healthcare, infrastructure, fire etc. Maybe it’s time for a salary cap for commissioners, eh Bud? Hey, if you get what the market will bear then don’t ask the players to accept a penny less. Why does Selig get a Luis for merely getting his contract extended? Well, if guys like Carl Pohlad, Jeffrey Loria, David Samson, Peter Angelos and Jerry Reinsdorf wish him to be the man they want to lead—well, that deserves a Luis. You’re known by the company you keep. In addition, among the cartel of corporate welfare leeches, Bud is head leech—no other leech has sucked more, sucked longer or sucked with more vigor than Czar Bud.

The U.S. Government…

…received two nominations this week. The first one:

Obviously Congress—or the House and blah, blah Oversight blah whatever committee—could be nominated for a Luis. When they drag dead kids and their parents into this it [ticks] me off. How cynical, how self serving, how shallow. Pro ball players are entertainers—not role models—no more than 50 Cent or Britney or… I suspect I’m preaching to the choir but if your children think these guys are role models you’re a bad parent. (Pete Toms—A Baseball Geek)

I nominate Congress for a Luis Pujols award for wasting our time and taxpayer money on the drug issue in sports. (Bill Baer—Crashburn Alley)

Roger Clemens

In your first article, you put Clemens on the fence for a Pujols award. Well, I’ll go ahead and say he overwhelmingly deserves a Luis. We all know about the (alleged) steroid use and the (alleged) lying to deny it, but I think this latest scandal has fans forgetting that for a while now Clemens has been regularly insulting the game. The repeated retirement/comeback routine was bad enough. But for the past few years, his half-season mercenary contract demands have made him the most selfish player without an all-time career home run record. What kind of player would ask not to travel with the team? And think what kind of precedent he is setting. The Yankees paid him $18mil for less than 100 league-average innings. With starting pitching—even average starting pitching—in such high demand, what would stop any pitcher from doing the same thing? Gee, Kyle Lohse doesn’t have a contract yet; maybe he should just wait until May and sign a one-year deal with the best team that needs him. Sorry to rant, but even before the steroid allegations Clemens [ticks] me off. Someone mail him his much-deserved Luis Pujols plaque right away! (Alex Brissette)

If you have a nomination for the “The Pujols Award” let us know!) If you wish to have your blog credited with the submission we’ll post the link along with your candidate. Let us know why you feel he deserves an Albert or a Luis.

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