One thing fantasy baseball does for me is gives me a little more connection to players I’d otherwise be somewhat indifferent towards – well, to the extent that one can be indifferent towards the best player in baseball. Back in 2001 during our league draft I decided to take a flyer on a guy named Pujols, who had spent most of 2000 in A-ball, and was filling in at third base while Bobby Bonilla was on the DL.
Someone in the room said, “They’ll send him down as soon as Bonilla comes back.”
A couple of weeks later, Bonilla came back. Rather than sending down Pujols, the Cardinals released John Mabry. Pujols has since gone on to beat the living daylights out of National League pitching.
I drafted Pujols in the 16th round that year (this is a keeper league, so that’s like taking him in the 21st round in non-keeper leagues). Overall he was the 248th player taken in the draft – 362nd if you include the keepers.
And I’ve had him on my team ever since.
If anything, I think Pujols is underrated. He’s been hurt in one way or another for most of his career – he has a bad elbow which may eventually need reconstructive surgery, and for which he had surgery this offseason to correct a nerve problem and hopefully alleviate the pain he feels in it. That’s the main reason he plays first base, to avoid aggravating his elbow by having to throw more often. He came up as a third baseman and played all four corners (first, third, left field, and right field) his first two seasons. Last year he played one game at second base. Okay, events like that are flukes. But still. How great would it have been if he’d been able to spend his career at third base or in the outfield and been fully healthy?
The only thing he can’t do is pitch. As far as we know.
Since I don’t believe in god (in my Facebook profile my “Religion” field reads “unbeliever/heathen”), it’s strange for me to read about his clearly deep religious beliefs. It’s an aspect of him I can’t realte to or even really understand. “He played baseball, and he went to church, and that seemed about all that interested him.” On the other hand, if it works for him and his life, then that works for me.
I hope – for his own peace of mind – he’s telling the truth that he doesn’t care whether people believe that he’s not using steroids. The steroid witch-hunt has been such a disaster for baseball – to my mind much worse than any actual use of steroids has been. I hope the reigning Best Player in Baseball can escape the witch-hunt. Because I just want to see him play.