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Pujols off to weak start with Angels; Cardinals jump out to early lead in NL Central

April 12, 2012

“In baseball, you don't know nothing.” – Yogi Berra

Spring has sprung, bringing with it the crack of the bat and the flight of the ball and so many storylines that not even the much-ballyhooed World Wide Web can keep up with all the details. But there’s one storyline for the 2012 season that baseball fans of all stripes will be keeping an eye on: The performance of Albert Pujols and his new team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, versus the team he played for the first 11 years of his career, the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s early, but the Cardinals are winning.

Through five games with the 2-3 Angels, Pujols is hitting a less-than-torrid .222 (4-for-18) with no home runs, two RBIs and one run scored. He’s struck out three times and walked twice. On the bright side, two of his four base hits were doubles.

The St. Louis Cardinals are off to a 5-2 start under rookie manager Mike Matheny. Matheny, a former Gold Glove catcher for the Cardinals, replaced veteran skipper Tony La Russa, who retired days after the Cardinals clinched the 2011 World Series title in an epic seven-game battle with the Texas Rangers. Veteran slugger Lance Berkman, who moved to first base this season after playing right field for the Redbirds in 2011, is hitting .375 (5-for-16 ) with no home runs, one RBI and five runs scored.

Berkman was given a day off Wednesday due to tightness in his left calf, giving rookie first-baseman Matt Carpenter his second start of the season at first base. As a first-baseman, Carpenter is hitting .125 (1-for-8) with no home runs, no RBIs and one run scored. Overall production from the first base position for the Cardinals stands at .250 with no home runs, one RBI and six runs scored.

For his part, Pujols seems to have soured on St. Louis, the city whose fans once showered him with so much adulation. In a recent interview with USA Today, he said he wouldn’t mind if the Redbirds bestowed No. 5 on another player. "It's just a number, so if someone else wants to wear it, that won't hurt my feelings," Pujols told USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale. "Would I be shocked if St. Louis gave that number to somebody? No. They can do whatever they want. I don't play there anymore. I'm being honest; that won't bother me at all.”

As for Cardinal fans, an informal survey by Punditty during a recent trip to St. Louis indicates that most are more interested in the 2012 Cardinals than how Pujols is doing on the West Coast. “I’m glad we had him the first 11 years of his career rather than being saddled with his salary for the next decade,” said a fan who wished to remain anonymous. “I think the Cardinals got the best deal on that.”

SOURCES & RESOURCES:

Bonus Bytes: What’s up with Pujols? April 5, 2012, stltoday.com

Monster deal gives Pujols ‘extra chip on my shoulder,’ USA Today, April 3, 2012

Albert Pujols’ statistics, ESPN.com

Pujols projected statistics: ‘From 2012 on, he’s basically another Champ Summers,’ Dec. 14, 2011, allvoices.com

Cardinals, Pujols fail to reach deal before Wednesday deadline, Sports Illustrated, Feb. 15, 2011

Additional sources linked to in text.

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