I was making my nightly run through of ESPN.com and ran across this interesting tidbit. You can check out the firsthand material in some GQ issue if you don’t feel weird about that, read it secondhand at http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2557786, or my personal favorite you can get your news third hand right here at Joboo. Basically to sum up what I got out of the article, in 1921 Babe Ruth was subjected to a bunch of tests by Columbia University psychologists which were duplicated recently with Albert Pujols as the subject.
The tests were to designed to measure things such as reflexes, nerves, sight and recognition. As I’m sure it surprises no one both men scored off the charts. I’m not sure we needed these tests to come this conclusion, I mean a quick glance at either player’s baseballreference page tells us that they both could rake a little bit. As anyone who has ever played baseball, hell even video game baseball, could tell you things like eyesight, reflexes and recognition are the most some of the most important keys to being a good hitter. But who am I to criticize people for spending large sums of money to find out things that seem are pretty much common sense to most human beings. Besides GQ needs to sell magazines and psychologists need to find ways to waste government grants.
The real issue I have with this is that it is just another attempt to give us the “Next.” This phenomenon is most prevalent these days with Michael Jordan as we can all attest to the litany of next M.J.’s (I’m looking at you Harold Miner). This is just another case of the forced comparisons that seem to force their way into sports discussions like the creepy guy at your buddies wedding without a date that attaches himself to your group and follows you to the bar after the reception. Baseball, probably more than any sport, suffers from this disease because of the strong sense of history that surrounds the game. But why can’t we just appreciate what is going on today without forcing these comparisons.
It pains me to say this being a Cubs fan and all, but what Pujols has done so far really is beyond comparison. I have some theories about that ranging from that giant forehead being caused by those dirty injections we all have heard so much about or the simple fact that he has a receeding hairline, which is no suprise since he is 48 years old. So Pujols is putting up huge numbers and we all know that the Babe was a monster in his day, but the on the field stuff was only a fraction of the Babe’s mystique. The Babe was a larger than life figure that transcended baseball. In his hayday he was bigger than any movie or film star and his persona was one that everyone loved. Can anyone even tell me what Pujols’ persona is? I have no idea what he is like really, and maybe more to the point I really don’t give a shit.
The true draw of the Babe was the fact that you could envision yourself sitting down in the local Pub and throwing back a few (dozen?) beers and having a grand old time. Outside of St. Louis I don’t see many guys just wishing they could hang out with Old Albert (see its a pun on Fat Albert, cause well Albert is old and while I have no proof of this we all know that Latin players lie about their ages). Part of this may be the cultural divide that many of today’s baseball fans have with most of the players since Latin players have begun making up so much of the league. But more than that, I really feel like Albert Pujols simply has NO discernible personality. While it may be great for the Cardinals that Pujols would want to do nothing besides take batting practice and “supplement” injections it puts him nowhere near the Babe’s class. Besides, I would like to see Pujols hit a couple homeruns after being up all night drinking booze and going through hookers faster than hot dogs.
The basic point here is that Pujols is a great, maybe once in a lifetime great, hitter, but he is in no way the “next” Babe Ruth. He lacks the personality that made the babe truly legendary even if his offensive brilliance is similar to Ruth’s. Pujols also lacks the cultural significance that allowed the Babe to resonate so well throughout America. All this talk about the “next” great athlete, whatever the sport, always devolves into what I just went through. We spend much more time nitpicking how the players differ than truly understanding and appreciating what this new player has brought to the game.