posted on April 08, 2012 22:43
I first noticed a correlation in May of 2008.
Jim Edmonds was a Cardinal. He was our Cardinal. Even though he was fading into the twilight of his career, and even though he had been traded to San Diego prior to the start of the season, this was different. The Padres were a hapless bunch that would finish dead-last in the NL West, baseball’s most futile division at the time.
Signing with the Cubs was sacrilege.
Having sipped his cup of PetCo Joe with 16 hits over 26 games, Jimmy Baseball was released by the lowly Padres and signed with the Cubs, an offensively-stout team that would power through the Central standings with 97 wins.
Seeing Edmonds in Cubby pinstripes for the first time made me retch. It was like seeing an old flame – the kinky one it takes way too long to realize is not wife material but one you have feelings for nonetheless – in the throws of a passionate, budding relationship with some bronzed douche-whistle in a Tapout tee and a shell necklace...and a plastic cup filled with Old Style for good measure.
The only thing more saddening than the heartache towards which she was heading being the terrifying notion she might actually go on to win the World Ser…err…live happily ever after.
The Dodgers instead bent the baby bears over their knee in the NLDS and, after flings with the Brewers and the Reds, it became clear that Edmonds was simply one of those hopeless, but well meaning slut-bags who will forever hold a special place in your heart. One who, fact is, never got over being dumped by you in the first place and has been trying to make you jealous ever since.
One day in some drunken text exchange she will reveal to you what you always suspected: she never did the thing with any of their balls that she used to do with yours.
Some things are sacred.
God bless her. Knowing that adorable little scallywag would take you back faster than she can shoot RumChata eases your pain, for we take solace in the comfort of control.
And that’s what the game is really about, folks. Control. You could have one foot out the door; your partner flips the script on you – does the dumping you intended to – and suddenly, irrationally you find your tail between your legs where your convictions once dangled.
I hadn't come to grips with it until the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim took the field for their season opener on Friday night: all along we had loved Albert Pujols with the belief that the only thing more reasonable than our love for him was his for us.
Saint Louis…Cardinal Nation…Sea of Red…“Best Fans in Baseball”
We were mistaken.
While covering the team for a couple of home stands last year I was able to hold a mic to the future first-ballot Hall of Famer in what should have been the thrill of a lifetime. What I remember was his reluctance to make eye contact with the corps of media members.
Looking back, it is embarrassingly clear that Albert never loved Cardinal fans the way Cardinal fans loved Albert. As is the case in so many of our relationships, the leverage we thought we had was an illusion created by our own ignorance.
This is nobody's fault.
No matter how much wealth Pujols accumulates – financially or statistically – he will always be an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. He will always be a poor kid from Santa Domingo whose father had a penchant for booze, who was raised primarily by his grandparents. He will always be the college phenom discounted by scouts, even after batting .460 and crushing baseballs as many feet.
He will always be the scowling, insatiable slugger who, when brushed off the plate with something high and tight digs in deeper and goes yard the next pitch.
Underestimated by scouts, undervalued by general managers, underappreciated by fans, scorned by the press…somebody was always “disrespecting” the Mang. On some underlying level, the supremely religious Pujols probably feels slighted by God Himself.
Make no mistake, for all his anthropology Albert Pujols is fueled by rage. Which of course is just another brand of insecurity.
In our defense, there was arguably no better place on earth for José Albert Pujols to be born into baseball lore. There is no market that cherishes and beholds the intricacies of baseball more than Saint Louis. For a blue collar community suspended somewhere between the labels of “town” and “city”, and eternally discredited by the coasts, baseball is the salve that helps mend our insecurities.
We were jilted, but the rich tradition of Cardinals Baseball remains intact. Cardinal fans will remain faithful and obedient to those who represent on the diamond what we are in life: humble, respectful, hardworking men and women who, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, prefer to speak softly and carry a big stick.
We loved Pujols because he personified this perfectly.
Until he didn’t.
And now it is over.
When we break up with someone we believed was “forever”, our natural reaction is emotional upheaval. Our ego – that mental mechanism which gives us our sense of self – becomes deeply bruised and defensive. Significant others become so intertwined with our identity that, when ripped apart from one another causes us to say to ourselves, “Wait a minute, I thought that I was this great thing and that you believed it, too. So, what you are telling me is that I am not this great thing that I thought I was?”
Our instinctual response is to attack that person’s credibility. But the trick is to not allow ourselves to be defined by things outside of ourselves in the first place...things outside of our control.
In fact, the biggest detriment to any relationship is one or both individuals having not established who they are prior to engaging in the joint venture.
This applies not only to our romantic relationships, but to our relationships with our work – something that has become an epidemic in society – as well as our relationships with our children, who we must encourage to have healthy identities of their own.
Correspondingly, the worst thing John Mozeliak and the Cardinals could have done upon losing the great Albert Pujols is try to replace him with another icon. Doing so would have meant acknowledging that Albert Pujols defined the organization.
He did not.
The Cardinals were baseball royalty long before Pujols and will remain so long after, and without our unyielding support and love for the game the franchise would not even exist.
Furthermore, Pujols could lead the Angels to a World Series championship every year of his 10-year contract and his new club would only match the number of titles the Cardinals have already won.
Ergo, the Cardinals and Cardinal faithful are superior to the Angels and Albert Pujols, and life goes on.
Ergo, when an important relationship of our own comes to an end, we must remember our own greatness, or at the very least the opportunity to reinvent it.
As for the wrath of a lover scorned bit, it’s time to let that shit go. AP is not losing sleep over you and neither is your ex.
J. Adams is the columnist responsible for the Man Hole section covering health & fitness, sex & relationships and local business that deserve some attention. Follow him on Twitter via @Intangiball