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Mudslingers again take aim at Pujols

With Alex Rodriguez’ reputation damaged by his admission of steroids use, the sights of those aiming to take down more big game have been re-aimed at St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.

Pujols took the offensive in the March 16 issue of Sports Illustrated via a cover article entitled, “Don’t Be Afraid To Believe In Me”. As told to Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star, Pujols addresses the question of public perception over whether or not he used steroids.

“… They’re going to say, ‘Well, he probably did it back then. He just didn’t get caught.’ I know that is what they’re going to say. And you know what, man? It is sad, but at the same time it doesn’t matter. I know who I am. …”

A blogger named “Andrew R” is among those reacting just as Pujols predicted. Andrew, whose bio states he is “attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a first year journalism major”, has been given a national platform through a website called “Bleacher Report”, which is associated with both and On Tuesday, Andrew published an article entitled “Albert Pujols: Juicer or Clean Player?”.

Although Andrew states his place of birth to have been in the USA, I can only assume that was a mistake. It must have been somewhere outside the free world since he is obviously unfamiliar with the most basic tenet of human rights. “The law presumes that persons charged with crime are innocent until they are proven by competent evidence to be guilty.”

In his expose’, Andrew offers the following examples of “evidence” that baseball players from this era may be guilty, specifically Pujols, because they cannot be proven to be innocent.

  • “Do you remember the last guy with his build? He played first base for the Cardinals, too, and he hit 70 home runs in 1998.”
  • “Pujols’ name was linked to the Mitchell Report before it was published, but his name never did end up appearing in it.”
  • “Albert Pujols is the greatest example of how steroids have ruined baseball the last twenty years.”

It is a double-edged sword giving attention to such careless writing, yet it never ceases to amaze me how these types of accusations reach the mainstream.

Some believe that Pujols should remain silent and not dignify the charges being whispered against him. Yet, it is too late for that. His name has already been dragged through the mud.

Pujols was slandered by the blog Deadspin in June, 2006 when the site erroneously fingered Pujols’ personal trainer Chris Mihlfeld as a supplier to caught user and former MLB pitcher Jason Grimsley. Even though Pujols was not a part of the story, connected only circumstantially by his trainer and with apparently nothing to do with Grimsley, it was Albert’s photo that Deadspin ran. Apparently, they couldn’t locate one of Grimsley or Mihlfeld (wink, wink).

The accusations were picked up nationally, including what I recall to have been a particularly scathing report by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. Though the Deadspin writer, Will Leitch, a professed Cardinals fan, four months later published an apology (to Mihlfeld, not Pujols) when he was proven by the Los Angeles Times to have been dead wrong in his accusations, damage to the reputations of Pujols and Mihlfeld was already done.

That summer, I recall booing of Pujols on the road where I had never heard it before. It was more than just begrudging respect for an opponent, a slightly milder version of Barry Bonds-like hazing that made me sick.

Whenever I start to become critical of Albert’s standoffishness toward the media, I stop and remind myself of the Deadspin incident. Then I get sick all over again.

I can only imagine Andrew R’s career aspiration is to become a writer for Deadspin. If so, the young man seems to be making good progress in his studies.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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