Albert Pujols hugs Cubs GM with Wrigley faithful looking on

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The embrace that will start a million rumors.

CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports that Albert Pujols and Cubs GM Jim Hendry shared a hug prior to Tuesday’s Cardinals-Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

And he has the picture to prove it.

A simple bro hug it wasn’t.

No word yet on whether Hendry whispered “$300 million” into Pujols’ right ear.  And we can’t imagine that there’s anything to the rumors that the Cubs inflicted Tony La Russa with shingles so that Hendry and Pujols could have some time alone.

Pujols, of course, is a free agent at season’s end, and the Cubs are viewed as a top candidate to sign him if he opts to leave St. Louis.

“I can’t win,” Hendry said, stating the obvious (he works for the Cubs after all). “I like Albert. We’ve always gotten along. He’s a great, great player. I admire the heck out of him. He plays the game the right way every day.”

Hendry tried to deflect attention by saying he also hugged Ryan Theriot, though we’ve seen no photographic evidence of such an event.

(Pic: Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro informs Pujols of where he’ll be standing when he’s playing first base for the team next year.)

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.