Well, one thing is for sure. Busch Stadium III is built tough. After withstanding the heavy artillery barrage fired into the left field seats by Albert Pujols against terrified Cincinnatti Reds pitchers, I'd say the ballpark is going to be standing for years to come. Pujols' three-home-run performance was a stunning achievement that left non-regulars of Cardinal Nation gasping for breath, as if the speed of AP's bat had sucked the very breath from their lungs.
The Reds were shell-shocked, and rightly so. How do you combat such talent? How do you pitch around a guy like Pujols when Scott Rolen is waiting in the wings? While other members of the Cardinals are still finding their strokes and getting used to the new ballpark, Pujols and the resurgent Rolen are two-man wrecking machines seemingly bent on knocking down nouveau-Busch one brick at a time. Could we be witness to the best corner combo in the history of the game?
I'm a little surprised at the under-reaction within Cardinal Nation at Pujols' walk-off heroics. I was a little surprised at my own reaction, which was something along the lines of "I hope Albert doesn't keep trying to pull the ball," even as his third homer landed. Could it be that we are in danger of becoming accustomed to Albert's face? Perhaps we've gotten so used to these incredible performances that we expect the truly extraordinary from him? Pujols' God-given talent is on full display, and I submit that Cardinal Nation should enjoy every minute of the ride.
When I was a kid, I thought guys named Brock and Gibson and
Shannon would play forever. They WERE the Cardinals, after all, and
would be as timeless as my youth.
Now at 51 years, these three are a part of the team's storied history as
have scintillating players like Ozzie and Willie and Vince and Big Mac. Now I know that time doesn't stand still
and neither do the Cardinals or their players.
There will come the day in fifteen years or so when
Prince Albert stands before an
adoring throng at Busch Stadium, inundated with the appreciation of the best
fans in baseball, and takes his last curtain call before he retires to await the
call of baseball immortality at Cooperstown.
Already being compared to the greats of the game like Ted Williams, Joe
DiMaggio, and – can I say it? – Stan Musial, Pujols' career will unfold before
us like the dream of youth and then it will be gone.
It's sad that another lousy day spent watching Barry Bonds fade into the twilight gets more national media attention than the accomplishments of the Great Pujols. Bonds' descent into physical and legal oblivion should serve as a stark reminder to us of how special Pujols is. No questions of "juice" here, thank you. Albert achieves all that he does by very hard and disciplined mental and physical preparation. Not one to cower reclusively, Pujols is a solid citizen, and his foundation to help people and families afflicted with Down's Syndrome shows that the big man's heart is firmly ensconced in more serious matters of being a good father and a responsible human.
Cardinal Nation must never, ever let the gift of Albert Pujols be taken for granted. If he continues as he has so far he will be the stuff of legends in baseball both as a player and as a man. We should marvel at every hard hit line drive, every artillery shot that threatens the structural integrity of the new stadium, every deft dig of a low throw at first base, and for every dollar he contributes to and for every dollar raised by his foundation. As with all good things, though, this too will come to an end. Relish every minute of the Albert Pujols era in Cardinal history. For all the greats in red, we have potentially been granted the best ever.