Albert Pujols plays the “you never played the game!” card

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Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times has a piece about Albert Pujols. One which acknowledges the obvious — Pujols now is not what he used to be — but that he still has his value and his moments and how he’s still producing just fine for the first place Angels.

Pretty standard story for when a former all-world star ages and loses a step. And Pujols has a pretty standard retort to anyone who has the temerity to note that, no, it’s not 2008 anymore, unfortunately:

Age and mileage on his legs have, inevitably, dimmed Pujols’ brilliance. But he’s far from washed up, and said he learned to ignore critics who snipe from afar without all the facts.

“Those genius think that, why they don’t come and try and hit a ball? They’re sitting behind a desk or punching numbers in a computer or writing in the paper. That’s what their job is, to try and be negative towards the players,” he said. “But they don’t know that this game is tough. This game is not easy. You can be 100% and it’s not easy — imagine when you have injuries. At the end of my career, I will know what I have accomplished in this game. At the end of my career, then we can look back. If I can play the seven years I have left on my contract we’ll see where we’re at.”

Yeah, if only there was some objective standards — some metrics — by which one could see the decline in a baseball player’s performance and which would justify them making the innocuous and factual statement that he’s not quite as good as he once was. Sadly, no such thing exists and we’re all forced to shut up unless we actually go and face major league pitching.

This stance bugs the hell out of me. Mostly because when athletes say such things they’re railing against non-existent critics. No one with any sense or reason says that Pujols is a bad person because he can’t hit like he did when he was 27. No one thinks he’s particularly unusual in terms of his career arc and (relative) decline. To the extent his contract is criticized it’s not a personal thing — who wouldn’t take that money? — and criticism of it is leveled at the Angels for offering it, not for Pujols accepting it. Show me the “critics who snipe from afar” who say such things. Because I’m not sure who he’s talking about here.

[ RELATED: Is Pujols’ contract still worth it to the Angels? ]

More generally: we don’t live in a world in which only those who do a thing are capable of talking about that thing. No one who writes about music thinks they can play the guitar like a rock star, but they are certainly capable of talking about how a band isn’t as good as it once was. No one (well, no one with self-awareness) who writes about politics thinks they could lead a nation, but they are certainly capable of talking about a politician failing to fulfill his or her promises. And no one who writes about baseball thinks they can hit a major league fastball, but we’re certainly capable to noting when a hitter is in decline. And Albert Pujols is in decline.

If Pujols needs to compare himself to his critics in this fashion to motivate him, well, whatever works. But if he hopes to change any minds with such an approach voiced publicly, good luck.

Vanderbilt defeats Michigan 8-2 to win College World Series

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Vanderbilt defeated Michigan 8-2 in a decisive Game 3 on Wednesday night to win the College World Series. It’s Vanderbilt’s first championship since 2014 when the school defeated Virginia 3-2. Surprisingly, the 10 combined runs made this the highest-scoring College World Series-clinching game since 2009 when LSU beat Texas 11-4.

Michigan got on the board early, beginning the top of the first with three consecutive singles to take a 1-0 lead. Vanderbilt tied it at 1-1 with a solo homer from Pat DeMarco.

Vanderbilt took control of the game in the third and fourth innings, scoring three and two times, respectively. In the third, DeMarco drew a bases loaded walk and Stephen Scott followed up with a two-run single to make it 4-1. In the fourth, Vandy got a run on an RBI single from J.J. Bleday and a sacrifice fly from Ethan Paul. Harrison Ray added an RBI single in the seventh to pad the lead to 7-1. After Michigan scratched out another run in the top of the eighth, Vanderbilt got it right back in the bottom half thanks to an RBI single by Philip Clarke.

On the pitching side of things, Mason Hickman delivered six strong innings for Vandy. He yielded the lone run on four hits and three walks while striking out 10. He gave way to Jake Eder in the seventh, who worked a 1-2-3 frame. Eder remained in the game for the eighth, relenting a run on a two-out double, but it was too little, too late for Michigan. Going out in the ninth inning for a third inning, Eder worked around a two-out walk to close out the ballgame in an 8-2 victory for Vanderbilt.