Over the last few days, word has reached the non-California parts of the world via traditional media and bloggers alike that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have initiated a new marketing campaign featuring Albert Pujols.
That is hardly news in itself. After all, since Halos owner Arte Moreno committed $270 million of his money to bring the first baseman to Anaheim for the next two decades, it only makes sense his organization wants to sell more tickets as a result, especially to the large Hispanic population in Southern California.
The rub is that the focus of the campaign is a phrase considered sacred in St. Louis. Angels billboards feature the name and number on the back of Pujols’ jersey, accompanied by the words, “El Hombre,” which is Spanish for “The Man.”
When the Spanish variation of this nickname first emerged several years back, Pujols made it clear he did not want it used because he considers Hall of Famer Stan Musial to be The Man in St. Louis.
Well, Pujols is not in St. Louis anymore. Further, the indignation I have seen expressed by some in blog posts and reader comments aimed at Pujols personally because of the Angels’ marketing move feels misplaced.
My guess is that the Angels did not seek Pujols’ approval to use his name and image on their billboards, nor would they have asked him to review design and copy. So why blame him?
I get that many are still angry over the circumstances surrounding Pujols’ departure from St. Louis and may always be, but I can’t see hanging this one on the player personally.
If anyone’s motives are to be questioned, it should be the Angels marketing staff and their approving executives. Unless they are terribly uninformed, they should be aware of the circumstances surrounding the use of “The Man.”
Perhaps they don’t care. Perhaps they know exactly what they are doing, hoping to take advantage of any extra publicity that might emerge as a result of their actions. If so, it is working.
Considering the Angels’ target market, there is almost no risk. After all, how many Southern Californians will be concerned over a perceived slight to Musial, who retired as a player half a century ago? Who cares what they think in St. Louis?
Once Pujols becomes aware of this, if he is not already, it would be interesting to learn how he feels. Perhaps one of the Angels press corps will be willing to risk souring his/her new relationship with the sometimes-surly slugger by asking him.
Even so, securing a sincere answer may prove impossible. Even if he is concerned, Pujols may not want to risk making waves with Moreno, his new “partner” for the next 20 years, before even one game is played.
The only real indication will be if the campaign continues this season and into the subsequent years of Pujols’ commitment to the Angels or quietly fades away.
Really, why should anyone east of Moreno Valley care what the Angels do, anyway?
Feb. 22 update: Someone in LA did ask and Pujols objects. Whether or not anything happens as a result is unclear.
Feb. 27 update: After the current billboards go down late in March, the Angels will no longer use “El Hombre” in their marketing, team officials told the LA Times. In apparent face-saving mode, they state that was their plan all along.