What not to say to Cardinal fans today
In the wake of the Al-pocalypse, the interwebs have been lit up by wounded Cardinal fans and their gleeful scolds: “Pujols gave you the best years of his career, and now you want to topple his statue Saddam Hussein-style and organize a mass ditch-and-dine at his restaurant? And you say you’re the best fans in baseball! For shame!”
Hey, Rest of the Baseball World, nobody said breakups were governed by logic and sabermetrics. Your job is to bring us ice cream and bad DVDs today, not to admonish or try to reason with us—but if you’re determined to make conversation when we’d probably rather be left alone, please at least avoid the following pitfalls:
1) “You can’t blame a guy for wanting to make more money!” Yes. Yes, I can. Let’s be very clear about this: People who already stand to earn $20 million per year do not need to make more money, full stop.
2) “He has to do what’s right for his family!” Of course he does, and if we’d had any inclination along the way that the Pujols family wanted to be on the West coast, this might be mildly persuasive. But that’s not the case, and anyway, this is usually code for “He needs the extra money to feed his children,” which….see #1.
3) “The Cardinals were the greedy ones!” Leaving aside the question of whether any single player is worth a quarter of a billion dollars, you can’t logically slam the team for being parsimonious while cheering Pujols for making a cash-grab. The money the Cards would have had to pay Pujols could have paid ten up-and-coming players. What about their children? Huh?
4) “At least he’s going to a classy organization!” Thanks a lot. That’s like saying “At least your ex left you for someone beautiful and intelligent!” When the Marlins seemed like the prime contenders for Pujols’s services, we were at least mildly consoled by the thought of getting to watch Albert spend his sunset years wearing a day-glo uniform and being feted by cheerleaders instead of Clydesdales.
5) “Cheer up—you had eleven fabulous years with the best player in the game!” And who doesn’t love to be reminded of the awesome times they had with their awesome ex right after they’ve been ditched, amirite?
6) “He’s going downhill fast anyway, so you dodged a bullet!” Stay with me here, because we’re digging deep into the illogic of break-up psychology. Just as we don’t want to hear about how great Albert is, we also don’t want to hear about what a broken-down dud he is, because that only implies that we’ve had the poor judgment to hitch our wagon to a loser. We weren’t misguided for adoring him, and we weren’t naive for being prepared to do so until the day he retired. Retrospectively cheapening the years we had together is no way to ease the pain of their ending.
7) “You’re awfully ungrateful, considering that the guy gave you all those home runs and two World Series rings!” To be precise, he didn’t exactly donate those things; he was handsomely paid for them, and would have continued to be. And his compensation didn’t just take the form of a paycheck. Cardinal Nation wore his jerseys, ate at his restaurant, contributed to his charities, cheered him when he slumped, and—against our better judgment and in contravention of everything we know about the baseball industry—took him at his word when he said he returned our feelings. We’re not ungrateful for what he did for us. We’re hurt that it didn’t mean enough to him to keep doing it.
8 ) “Well, you knew all along that baseball was a business!” Sure we did. But the 2011 Cardinals helped us forget that, for a few shining weeks in September and October. Suddenly Borases and Lozanos were less important than tortoises and squirrels; men with million-dollar contracts were boys with crazy dreams again; Busch Stadium was a cathedral and we were all pointing our index fingers toward the sky. We were in baseball heaven, and knowing that we’d have to return to earth sooner or later didn’t make the landing any softer. The baseball gods can’t possibly expect us to revert from believers to bean-counters so soon.
Neither should you.