Poll question – should the Angels shut down Pujols?

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Report: Jack Clark accuses Albert Pujols of using steroids.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols broke in with the St. Louis Cardinals at 21 years old in 2001. He has long denied using steroids. (Getty Images)

Former major leaguer Jack Clark, now a sports-talk radio host in St. Louis, recently accused Angels star Albert Pujols of using steroids early in his career with the Cardinals.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported today that Clark had been on the job less than a week last Friday when he declared on the air that Pujols used steroids: “I know for a fact he was. The trainer that worked with him, threw him batting practice from Kansas City, that worked him out every day, basically told me that’s what he did.”

More from Clark, courtesy of the P-D:

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Albert Pujols won’t have plantar fascia surgery, hopes to return this season.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols could miss the remainder of the 2013 season after suffering a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot Friday. (Associated Press)

Albert Pujols is counting on faith, his personal injury history, and a nearly pain-free left foot to carry his optimism for the next 6 to 8 weeks, or however long it takes to recover from a partially torn plantar fascia.

Pujols wouldn’t rule out returning to the Angels this season after being told by a team physician that the injury might need 6 to 8 weeks to heal. There are eight weeks and three days left in the regular season.

Pujols had been dealing with plantar fasciitis all season until he suffered the partial tear last Friday in Oakland.

“If it takes two months or three weeks or four weeks, great,” Pujols said. “I’m not going to try to rush anything.”
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Angels’ Albert Pujols feels ‘decent’ after a restful All-Star break.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols said he doesn’t feel any improvement in his right knee or foot since before the All-Star break. (Associated Press photo)

Albert Pujols didn’t want the All-Star break to end.

Not because his knee was in pain, not because his plantar fasciitis has been acting up. His son, A.J., has a big game.

“I wish I could be with my son in Cooperstown,” Pujols said Friday. “He’s in a tournament. He told me he’s going to be in Cooperstown before me.”
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VIDEO: Pujols on facing the Cardinals for the first time, decision to leave

It may not be too soon to say the St. Louis Cardinals emerged on the better end of the Albert Pujols 2011 sweepstakes.

The 33-year-old slugger has more than eight years of his $240 million contract remaining to provide production, but on Tuesday Pujols faced his former team for the first time sporting a losing record and zero playoff appearances in anything other than a Cardinals uniform.

St. Louis, meanwhile, is only gaining respect precisely because of what it achieving without players like Pujols. The Cardinals entered Tuesday 17 games above .500.

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Angels shift toward a leadoff platoon. Josh Hamilton seems to be the culprit.

Mike Trout has said he enjoys hitting leadoff. It’s what he has done for most of his baseball life and what he did Monday and Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners. But he was batting second again for the Angels on Thursday night.

Peter Bourjos, the leadoff hitter Wednesday, wasn’t batting first either.

Erick Aybar was the first man up Thursday after a 13-game absence from the top of the order, and manager Mike Scioscia said that the top of the order could be a rotating affair beyond tonight.
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Daily Distractions: Apparent blown call revisited; Angels’ initial budget was $5 million.

Did the blown call at first base in yesterday’s game matter?

It’s a valid enough question to be debating it today. Albert Pujols, who had three hits in the game, was on deck. He’s batted four times in his career against Dodgers pitcher Kenley Jansen and has one hit, a home run.

If the Angels indeed go on another winning streak today, and this stands as the only defeat in a stretch of wins, the play will loom large. A one-run loss decided by a blown call in the eighth inning? Not too much to hang your head about there.

Some more bullet points for a Tuesday morning:

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Daily Distractions: Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols juxtaposed; rekindling Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols’ running can be painful to watch; lately his batting average has been suffering too. (Associated Press photo)

A visiting beat writer at Sunday’s game watched one of Albert Pujols‘ three strikeouts and marveled at what he saw. The swing-and-miss at strike three, down and away, simply wasn’t the same Pujols. In fact, it looked a little like Josh Hamilton did earlier this month.

Hamilton seems to be coming around, as I wrote in my game story yesterday. Pujols, who is batting .198 since April 21, does not.

Writes Joe Posnanski: “After years of being the best player in baseball, Pujols is now sort of beside the point.”

Mike Scioscia said something interesting after the game. I asked him if the Angels’ patience at the plate (they walked twice with the bases loaded and Hamilton averaged five pitches per at-bat) was evidence of a team that isn’t pressing as much, something Scioscia reprimanded his team for a couple nights earlier. His answer:

“I think we’re seeing some guys maybe use the whole field. As you try to get simpler, get more comfortable in the game, the things you talk about show up — you see the guys get in deeper counts, get a pitch, take a walk, hit the ball the other way, get better pitches to hit. Those things start to go in a positive direction. Hopefully he’ll keep taking strides toward it.”

Wait, who’s “he”?

I didn’t ask that because I didn’t catch Scioscia’s choice of pronouns until I listened to my tape after the game. But it isn’t hard to figure out — it’s Hamilton, who was hitting line drives to the opposite field, taking a walk, and going deeper into counts as if he was Mike Trout. Pujols was not.

For Pujols’ legacy, sure, we’re witnessing a turning point. As a key to the Angels’ success, it remains to be seen how long they can survive Pujols’ slump.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:

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