Pujols Flies the Coup, but Media’s Reaction Is Foul

(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog).

Albert Pujols, one of the greatest players in the history of the game and most revered figures in the city of St. Louis, is a coward who lacks leadership skills, at least according to the headline writers at Yahoo! Sports.

Judging by the solemn photo of Pujols, crouching low after allowing a relay throw to slip by his glove, you’d think the Cardinals’ first baseman did something heinous. Was he caught cheating on the field? Or, maybe he put a personal accomplishment ahead of team goals? Perhaps he had an argument with his manager, or disrespected a teammate in full view of the country? Pujols did none of those things. He simply skipped out on reporters by leaving the clubhouse soon after the game.

Yahoo! Sports Teaser for a Column by Jeff Passan
Source: Yahoo! Sports

Yahoo! Sports wasn’t alone in criticizing Pujols for his early exit. In columns and tweets, media members took turns lambasting the MVP for his refusal to live up to his post game obligations. Not content to simply cover the World Series, many in the media instead decided to make their role a central story line.

Years ago, before the advent of RSNs, blogs, twitter, and various other new media outlets, the press was a vital link between players and fans. Teams accorded special access to ink-stained scribes because it was in their best business interests. Understanding the value of their symbiotic relationship, writers also tended to shy away from sensational stories. It was a working relationship that benefitted both sides. Like or not, however, that dynamic no longer exists.

Because of the proliferation of “new media”, teams rely less and less on the traditional media for exposure. Between RSNs, which cater to specific teams, and national outlets like ESPN, which depend on sports programming, not to mention the countless social media outlets and independent blogs, leagues enjoy unparalleled exposure, an increasing amount of which comes from alternative means. Meanwhile, traditional media has evolved toward sensationalism as it tries to compete with the expanding market place. The result has been countless examples of unsubstantiated character assassinations perpetuated by outlets that once turned their nose up at such methods of reporting (see how the steroid controversy has been handled for a perfect example). As a result, the symbiotic relationship has been broken.

Put simply, if the New York Daily News decided to cut out Yankees coverage, the former would take the much bigger hit. Viewed in that context, Pujols decision to skip out on the media was really nothing more than a discourteous act. Should he have hung around to help out some of the writers looking for a quote or two about the game? Sure. Did his failure to do so amount to cowardice and failed leadership? Absolutely not.

Babe Ruth clowns around at the 1922 BBWAA Dinner in New York.

It’s easy to understand why the traditional media feels threatened when a player denies them access. It’s not because they feel a responsibility to the fans, as many members frequently claim. Journalistic sensibilities also play little role. Rather, it is a defense mechanism based on self preservation. After all, one of the few things that separates the traditional media from the new media is access, and once that is taken away, the line becomes completely blurred.

Had Albert Pujols remained in the clubhouse, he likely would have talked about misjudging the throw, being disappointed, and vowing to play better in Texas. In all honesty, would any of that have really enhanced the game story? Although a few quotes from Pujols would have been nice, so much else happened in the game. By fixating on what Pujols said, or didn’t say, it makes you wonder if the well of creativity has run dry. If so, that would explain why the media more regularly makes itself a part of the story, instead of simply reporting on it.

13 thoughts on “Pujols Flies the Coup, but Media’s Reaction Is Foul

  1. “After all, one of the few things that separates the traditional media from the new media is access, and once that is taken away, the line becomes completely blurred.”

    Great analysis. It’s pretty absurd to watch the media get outraged every time a player blows them off (see Soriano earlier this year), but sometimes you have to wonder what value they are really adding in this new age of journalism.

    Access is what distinguishes them from bloggers for sure (though that line is getting blurred as well as some bloggers begin to get more access), but if access is only going to be used to collect lame quote from players and use them to incite controversy, then I don’t see what they are really bringing to the table.

  2. I agree. Nothing earth shattering would have been shared by Pujols. I take it that he was upset and angry with himself. Nice post.

  3. No, the original Yahoo article got it right. I live in St. Louis and have seen Pujols act like a spoiled child for the past 10 years. He is not a leader, never was, and to give him credit, doesn’t claim to be. He is years older than his claimed 31 years as well. Hopefully he will sign elsewhere because his signing will destroy that team’s ability to compete for whatever length of contract he gets. 2011 showed his talents are on the decline. And never has he been known as a true “clutch” player either. I really hope the Cardinals are wise enough to know he is not worth more than five more years or 20 million per year (if he’s worth that much.)

    • Pujols sounds like an awful person. I can’t imagine how the Cardinals have been able to be so successful with such a player.Once they get rid him, I am sure the Cardinals will really start winning. Just to be charitable, I hope the Yankees volunteer to take Pujols off their hands.

      • Cardinals not too successful since 2006. They can mainly thank the Braves’ monumental collapse for 2011.

        Most Cardinal fans would want Freese or Craig at the plate with a WS game on the line, not Pujols and his jogging into DPs.

        He was great for 10 years, but he’ll be 37 in 5 years. Sign him for longer than 5 yrs. and you are putting your franchise in trouble. At 37 great players usually become “good” players, then quickly average players and then retire. Whether he’s selfish or a saint, this is reason you don’t overpay or sign for too long a contract.

          • OK, then I’ll offer a rebuttal for you:

            – Pujol’s next 10 years will clearly be as productive as his first 10.

            – Cardinals have been very successful the past 5 years.

            – Pujols is not a prima donna and always hustles.

            – Pujols has no history of treating the fans and media like dirt.

            – Yankees desire another long-term contact because the a-rod one has been such a success.

            [Is this an accurate enough rebuttal if my previous comment?]

    • Repeating: “Most Cardinal fans would want Freese or Craig at the plate with a WS game on the line, not Pujols”. You saw game 6, right? At least Pujols did double.

      The “mang” has been nearly non-existent for 5 of 6 WS games, actually contributing to 2 of the losses with an error and poor hit-and-run choices.

      Your boy, Pujols, though is great for vulture RBI’s and HR’s, though. Padding stats is his specialty. He may have once been the most talented hitter in baseball, but his personality denies his ability to be a true hero. Jeter and O. Smith are true heroes and leaders, Pujols has never been either.

      You did hear his explanation on why he calls hit-and-runs… “Part of that is knowing I deserve special treatment,” Pujols said.

      What an arrogant nutjob. Hope he’s gone next year. Good luck Cardinals in Game 7 tonight!

  4. I don’t think he needed to show up to make anyones story better. However when you are the face of an organization, and you make a play (or don’t) you have to show your face and take responsibility for it. Your teammates are going to have to talk about it, what makes you exempt? Did the media take it too far? Probably. But if you want to be a leader you have to walk the walk sometimes, and that includes getting in front of the media and answering questions even if you don’t want to.

    I wouldn’t be happy if Arod snuck off before the media got to him, I wouldn’t crucify him, but it wouldn’t reflect well on him. That’s part of what comes with that kind of success. He made sure he talked to the media after the 3 HRs didn’t he?

    • …and he looks up to heaven thanking God when he hits a home run [after his staredown pose at homeplate of course] He is a great guy when things are going good.

      If this were an isolated incident, he’d be forgiven, but Pujols has been a chronic jerk, prima donna, etc, for years now. Pujols will never play for the Yankees, unless he made a 180 degree attitude change or became a better actor than he is. The NY media and fans would crush him.

  5. 100% wrong. You have a responsibility to your teammates, coaches and fans to talk about the game that was just played. Ducking the press is bush league. There is a reason you get paid to play.

    Blaming writers for wanting to talk to them isn’t fair either. They have an obligation to talk to the press after good and especially bad.

    Ask any pro athlete if they agreed with Pujols and you will find every single one doesn’t.