A year ago, Albert Pujols was a post-modern Stan Musial. Today, he is a living, breathing “John Carter.”
(“John Carter” cost $250 million or so to make and was a bust at the box office. Pujols cost $250 million or so to land and has been a bust at the ballpark.)
Pujols thought he was going to Disneyland; instead, he’s wound up in Dante’s Inferno.
In the offseason, Pujols, 32, left St. Louis for Southern California. He became the second baseball player ever to sign a $200 million-plus contract – remarkably, Alex Rodriguez has done it twice, with the Rangers and the Yankees – and might become the first player to return the money with a note that says, “Oops – can’t hit no more.”
Pujols is the only player in MLB history to hit 30 or more homers in each of his first 11 seasons; in this, his 12th season, he has one. He’s averaged 40.5 homers a season in his career; he’s on pace to hit five in 2012.
At the moment, Pujols – a career .326 hitter – is batting .195.
Right now, he couldn’t hit the side of a barn if he fell asleep with his bat resting on the side of a barn. If he jumped out of a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, he might not hit water.
He went without a homer in his first 27 games as an Angel, sat out one game, then finally connected in his 28th game and 111th at-bat with the team.
Have I mentioned Pujols has one homer this season? I hate to be critical, but how hard can it be? Heck, Josh Hamilton hit four homers last week in less than 2½ hours.
Pujols – at least publicly – is not fazed by the power outage: “I come out here every day and try to get myself ready for the game and give 110 percent to this team.”
(I always worry when that number is cited, like when O.J. Simpson said he was “110 percent not guilty.”)
Now, if Pujols – who signed a 10-year contract – doesn’t defunkify, we’re looking at something that goes beyond massive free-agent bust; he’s entering hallowed cultural territory. Here are, unofficially, the five biggest flops of the last half-century in American life:
New Coke (1985): Was anybody complaining about Coca-Cola? What were they thinking? This was like adding skylights and terraces to the Pyramids.
Chevy Chase’s talk show (1993): Magic Johnson’s talk show actually was worse, but he was a point guard; Chase is an entertainer.
Ben-Gay Aspirin (1990s): Yes, Ben-Gay Aspirin. For real. I mean, I’ll smear that delightfully smelly stuff on my back, but do I care to swallow it?
Dennis Miller on “Monday Night Football” (2000-01): I still have nightmares of the former funny guy referring to Mike Shanahan as “Shanny” 37 times in four quarters.
Susan B. Anthony dollar (1979-81, 1999): Hey, I was as big a fan of women’s suffrage as the next guy, but I don’t want some feminist coin rolling around my pocket ruining the feng shui of my favorite quarters and dimes.
Frankly, Pujols never should’ve abandoned the Cardinals. Stan The Man never left St. Louis. Joseph Pulitzer never left St. Louis. The Gateway Arch has never left St. Louis.
In addition, Pujols didn’t consider the adjustment of living in Southern California. St. Louis is so small, most players walk to games; Los Angeles is so large, most players helicopter to games.
Plus Pujols failed to grasp the geography of the area. He thought he was coming to L.A. when, in fact, he was coming to Orange County. He likely was thrown by the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” moniker, which is marketing malarkey.
(It’s like real estate that’s labeled “Beverly Hills adjacent,” which means you live near the rich but not among them – if you’re lucky, you can get a whiff of the foie gras from their trash bins.)
In Pujols’ defense, SoCal makes fools of a lot of people. For instance, sources tell me ex-Laker Lamar Odom wasn’t even sure which Kardashian he was marrying; next thing you know, he’s down and out in Dallas.
Anyway, there’s still hope for Pujols – as it turns out, “John Carter” is doing pretty well overseas. Hmm. Is there a Gateway Arch in Japan?
Ask The Slouch
Q. I recently bought a couch at a local furniture store. The couch seemed liked a good deal at $800 but was bundled with a $10,000 personal seat license. The store owner, Mr. Goodell, assured me that the PSL was a good investment as it would allow me to purchase another couch next year without having to buy another PSL. Did I get a good deal? (Buddy Silver; Slingerlands, N.Y.)
A. If the couch had cup holders, you got a GREAT deal.
Q. Is there any truth to the rumor that you took up poker after failing to learn the fine rules of canasta? (Les Tolt; North Olmsted, Ohio)
A. I’m trying to bring in younger readers and you want me to address canasta?
Q. When Tiger Woods practices his driver on the range, does that guy yell, “In the hole!” every time he hits the ball? (Bob Paysour; Manassas, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.