Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Am Just Like Albert Pujols

The news I had been fearing came this morning: Albert Pujols, the premier baseball player of his generation, was leaving the St. Louis Cardinals, my St. Louis Cardinals, for the Los Angeles Angels. And why? Because they offered him somewhere in excess of $250 million dollars when the the Cardinals' offer was closer to $200 million.

Cardinal fans are passionate about baseball. The national media make much of (and I'm sure other teams' fans are tired of hearing about) the fact that Cardinal fans are "the best fans in baseball." I'll grant that it seems to be a pretty subjective designation, and I don't know what kind of barometer you might use to measure it. I can attest to this though: The spirits of an entire region invariably rise and fall with the performance of its baseball team.

I remember back in 1987 when the Cardinals lost first baseman Jack Clark to free agency the same week St. Louis lost our NFL team to Arizona. The newspaper ran a public opinion poll as to which was the more devastating loss, a first baseman leaving the baseball team or the ENTIRE football team leaving the city. Clark had only been in St. Louis for three years and was nowhere near the player Pujols is. He won in a landslide.

Anyway, as I've followed things on Facebook & Twitter, Cardinal fans are unsurprisingly distraught. Amidst their anguish, cries are arising over the unmitigated pride of Pujols. After all, isn't $200 million enough?

I too am saddened by the departure for a number of reasons. Not the least of these is the discussion it forces me to have this evening with a twelve year old son whose first words to me each day for the last month have been, "Any news on Pujols?"

This being said, I think to criticize Pujols for greed is a little off base. If anything, I think the operative sin here would not be greed, but pride. Ultimately, in his heart of hearts, my guess is that what Pujols wanted wasn't so much the extra $50 million, but the status that comes with having received such a large contract.

I am reminded of the words of C.S. Lewis from his book, Mere Christianity
Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. The sexual impulse may drive two men into competition if they both want the same girl. But that is only by accident; they might just as likely have wanted two different girls. But a proud man will take your girl from you, not because he wants her, but just to prove to himself that he is a better man than you. Greed may drive men into competition if there is not enough to go round; but the proud man, even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to get still more just to assert his power. Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride.
Now, it's easy for me to be critical of the greedy man who wants another $50 million because I am not likely ever to find myself in such a situation.  But each day I am forced to do battle with my pride.  So as disappointed as I am that Pujols has left, I'm going to try to get my own pride issues taken care of before I start bashing him. And as soon as I think I've eliminated pride in my life, that will be the first indication I haven't.


There seems to be some confusion over what I was saying as some folks I have talked to thought that I was making precisely the opposite point I intended to make -- never a good thing for a communicator.

It was not my desire to suggest that Albert's decision was necessarily sinful. Rather, I was merely suggesting that it was my guess that whatever sin might be wrapped up in it would more likely be a sin of pride than of greed. As such, I hoped to demonstrate that we should probably refrain from being too critical of him as we all struggle with pride in its various manifestations. Hence the title of the post.


jbboren said...

We are mourning down here in Texas, too. I haven't seen my kids yet, but I'm sure there will be a lively discussion at dinner tonight.

I can't help but feel a little bit disappointed in him as well as the loss to the Cards. I guess LaRussa knew more than he let on.

We'll see if he becomes the bust (relatively speaking) that A-Rod did. That's a tough standard up to which to live.

With all that money freed up, I sure hope the management goes and gets some good pitching.

Jacob said...

The reaction on campus has been mixed so far. I think finals aren't allowing for much time spent to think about baseball for many students. The local radio this morning/afternoon had a field day with this as they finally had something to talk about (the Rams aren't even fun to poke fun at any more).