Pujols: don't call me "El Hombre"

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Thumbnail image for pujols.jpgWe’re living in the dark ages of baseball nicknames. Most players don’t even have one, and most of those who do have dumb ones that rarely amount to more than adding a “y” or “ey” on to the end of their names.  In a sport that gave us “Oil Can,” “The Yankee Clipper,” and “Death to Flying Things,” it’s sad damn state of affairs. Even more sad is that we apparently now have to give up one of the few good ones out there:

Pujols politely asked that the media and fans refrain from calling
him “El Hombre,” because he believes it’s disrespectful to Cardinals
Hall of Famer Stan “The Man” Musial.

“I don’t want to be called that,”  Pujols said. “There is one man
that gets that respect, and that’s Stan Musial. He’s the Man. He’s the
Man in St. Louis. And I know ‘El Hombre’ means ‘The Man’ in Spanish.
But Stan is The Man. You can call me whatever else you want, but just
don’t call me El Hombre.”

OK, I’ll grant that it’s hard to argue with his reasoning. But if you can’t pick your own nickname, you certainly can’t un-pick one others have bestowed upon you.  If you could, Dick Stuart wouldn’t be remembered as “Dr. Strangeglove,” and that weird kid from my high school who everyone picked on wouldn’t be doing 25-to-life at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex.

So unless someone can come up with an alternative nickname for Pujols — something as menacing as, say, “The Big Hurt” but which simultaneously captures Pujols’ class and grace — I’m sticking with El Hombre.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.