Pujols ain’t the Babe

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.

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14 comments
  1. Andrew Matthews said:

    So let’s follow that logic…

    Barry Sanders isn’t legendary because he simply handed the ball to the ref rather than answer a hidden cell phone?

    David Robinson isn’t legendary because he placed greater importance on his family than on his parties?

    I don’t know what concerns me more…the fact that you are analyzing athletic status based upon off the field activities or that you haven’t taken the time to find out about Pujols “persona” before bashing it.

    So, what made Wilt Chamberlain legendary? 100 points in a game or the thousands of women he slept with?

  2. b-matt said:

    Nevermind the fact that it may be (is) to Pujols’ credit that he is not the babe.

    And, while his lack of personality may not make MLB as much money or make fans want to hang out with him, I think it’s more about his own humility than anything else.

    Furthermore, if he is so much older than what he says he is (which I doubt since he came here as a teenager and went to American high school), just think how scary he would he in his prime. Of course, he’s just getting to his prime based on his age, which I would contend is accurate, or at least within a year or two …

    So, you’re right, he is no Babe. But he is Albert and there aren’t too many like him. Add to that the fact he is more than likely clean as a whistle and you’ve got yourself a true legend in the making … no Babe, no Barry, no Big Papi. Just good ‘old Albert.

    As a BASEBALL fan, I’ll take that over off the field activities and personality anytime.

  3. Well thanks for the comments guys, but I just want to clarify a few things. First of all, I make jokes about Pujols cause I’m a Cubs fan and I’m a little bitter that our rivals have the BEST hitter in baseball. This post was also in no way an attempt to slight what Pujols has achieved in such a short time. It was more to illustrate the larger point that we fall in the trap of longing for replacements for those past great players rather than truly understanding how great the current players are. I apologize if that didn’t come across the best. I certainly do not think it appears if I was attempting to judge Pujols’ athletic performance in any way. And whether it is right or wrong athletes in our culture often become important or well known for things they do outside of the field of play. Lets face it, personalities are a huge part of sports and why we are all so fascinated with our athletes. For me, great performance on the field is merely only one of the things that goes into being a LEGENDARY athlete so disregarding other aspects would take a lot away from the game.

  4. mulherin said:

    “Lets face it, personalities are a huge part of sports and why we are all so fascinated with our athletes. For me, great performance on the field is merely only one of the things that goes into being a LEGENDARY athlete so disregarding other aspects would take a lot away from the game.”

    I think this is an interesting point, but there’s the problem of having too much personality, too (case in point, Manny Ramirez and the whole Manny-being-Manny thing getting blown way out of proportion up here in Boston). At a certain point, we seem to want our sports celebrities to have some personality, but to be acceptably bland at the same time. And if there’s ever a chance to choose between personality and blandness, it seems, IMO, that we end up with blandness being preferable. Hell, the New England Patriots are worshipped here, but, as a collection of individuals and personalities, they’re incredibly boring. Almost dull. I mean, Tom Brady holding a pet goat in GQ was a near event for the team.

  5. “At a certain point, we seem to want our sports celebrities to have some personality, but to be acceptably bland at the same time.”

    Very interesting thought there. Could we say that my personal childhood idol Michael Jordan embodied this better than anyone? He had enough of a personality combined with his other-worldly basketball skills to give him as much across-the-board appeal as any athlete in history, but he certainly wasn’t a controversial quote machine in the manner of his buddy Charles Barkley.

    If you take into account personality, my main man Ozzie Guillen will be having his own wing in Cooperstown in a few years.

    I love the name of this blog, by the way!

  6. Jordan had personality in a manner different from Chuck, as well. Jordan could put on a fly suit, have Oakley stand over his shoulder and people would just go, “damn” at the presence of the man. Jordan had this air of personality where people wanted to model themselves after the man on and off court.

    That said, I do like the personality overkill idea presented by mulherin. It seems like sometimes people add personality to athletes that the want to see do good, as long as they have something to latch on to. Guys that create their own personality usually get looked at the way Manny gets looked at.

    “I love the name of this blog, by the way!”

    Thanks, man, we figured it was high time someone started paying proper tribute to Joboo.

  7. b-matt said:

    I understand where you were coming from … but maybe I would have gotten there a different way. And I never claimed you ripped on his athletic ability. You just ripped on him. Other than calling him a lier and a juicer, you pretty much left him alone though.

    Maybe the most telling line in the whole thing though is this: “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.”

    You obviously do care or you wouldn’t have posted … and beyond that I think your comment illustrates part of the bigger issue. Albert plays in the midwest, and like it or not, most people don’t care about teams in the midwest. He’s just now starting to get national attention and no one is really sure how he will handle it or what his personality will come across as. Lots of guys have personality and prowess and fade or are forgotten … it’s not the magic combination that legends are made of.

    Albert’s numbers themselves will make him a legend, if he stays the course and adds longevity to his resume. And I’ll take that any day over the flag-waving-toohy-smiling Sammy Sosa or the exploding head of Barry Bonds … or even the small-ball-bashing of Big Papi.

    If I have to build a franchise today with one player who is not a pitcher … there’s not even anyone close. I’d say that’s more what legends are made of.

  8. mulherin said:

    “Very interesting thought there. Could we say that my personal childhood idol Michael Jordan embodied this better than anyone? He had enough of a personality combined with his other-worldly basketball skills to give him as much across-the-board appeal as any athlete in history, but he certainly wasn’t a controversial quote machine in the manner of his buddy Charles Barkley.”

    Sure. And it shows up in his heir-apparent, Tiger Woods, who has almost no discernable personality whatsoever (sure, different sports, but Tiger is the only other athlete post-Jordan that has dominated in the same way Jordan did, IMO).

  9. Good ole’ Harold Miner, or BJ (Baby Jordan) as we used to mockingly call him. Sometimes on old-ass basketball video games I choose him just for a laugh.

    You’re right…we as a nation are completely obsessed with the next big sports stars. Look at the marketing campaign for LeBron James–it’s called Witness for God’s sake. Like we all should sit around and “Witness” the latest next Jordan on his way to greatness. I wonder if that’s because we live in an era where we’re cynical of the current crop of superstars thanks to the doping scandals. Or maybe people are just boring now, who knows?

  10. Shawn said:

    This shit is gang related, hey.

  11. Chad VanNorman said:

    You are a very ignorant person and I hope you feel awful about what you just wrote about Albert Pujols. I’m not even a Cardinals fan or anything, but just because someone has more skill and works harder than you ever will does not mean you can right a bunch of nonsense about them. I would rather a professional athlete be a role model by setting up foundations for children with Down Syndrome, like Albert Pujols did, or stick firm to their beliefs and not bring all the attention to themselves and give credit to where credit is due, to God. I hope you never write anything for the rest of your life. Have a nice day.

  12. Kevin said:

    Dude, that last comment was pussy.

  13. Well Chad, thanks for stopping by but I’m a little confused as to why you seem to have your panties in such a bunch. Any athlete that can do positive things for the community well more power to them, but I’m not sure how helping the disadvantaged makes Pujols more like Babe Ruth. Furthermore, have you ever seen me work, or for that matter seen me do anything? I’m guessing no, so lets get off the high horse and stop assuming Albert works harder than I ever will. The man does play a game after all, a game that millions of Americans would love the opportunity to play rather than working the jobs they do to support their families. But it seems like no matter how hard I would work it wouldn’t matter because after all we owe it all to God. Maybe next time you feel like criticizing someone for making a joke (Once again I feel like people are missing this point and I don’t understand why. For the third time I’M JOKING ABOUT THE AGE AND STEROIDS STUFF. Its OK to laugh Chad, I only have a minor in theology, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a commandment against that.) proofread it please. You say I can’t right a bunch of nonsense, well can I left it then? Oh you meant write, I get it, it’s all becoming clear now. I’m glad Albert’s work with Down Syndrome was able to touch you personally and I’m happy to see you are coping so well with the disease, best of luck with that.

  14. Becca said:

    …”donates to downs syndrome clinics,” maybe that explains his HUGE forehead!

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