September 25, 2011 by Beth Hess
I feel the need to make full disclosure here. I have been a St. Louis Cardinals fan my entire life. Which means I am a fan of Albert Pujols. Like the rest of Redbird Nation, I admit to being nervous about the pending off-season’s negotiations with Pujols and want to see him in Cardinal Red for the rest of his career. I also am a Christian, so I appreciate the way Pujols uses baseball as a platform to share his faith. Though I certainly know nothing more of Pujols than I can read, hear, or see, I have always considered him an amazing baseball player, a joy to watch swing a bat, and what seems to be a stand-up guy with a true heart for God.
So, with that said, I was anxious for the opportunity to read Pujols-More Than the Game by Scott Lamb & Tim Ellsworth, when it became available through the publisher’s BookSneeze Preview Program for Bloggers.
For all the above reasons and more, I wanted to love this book. I wanted to see a new side of Albert Pujols. Perhaps a more personal side. Stories and comments from Pujols that had not already been reported. Unfortunately, there is not much of that to be found in this book. The authors rely heavily on game play-by-play scenarios — usually where Pujols was able to save the day. At times, full chapters are little more than narrated score cards where even I, a Cards fan who knows all the players, got a little lost in what base everyone was on and how many outs there were by the time Albert came to bat. Certainly Pujols is to be praised for his baseball statistics. I do not begrudge him that kind of recognition. But I felt it added little to the story the authors said they set out on — to talk about the story behind the numbers and show Pujols as “More Than the Game.”
Those chapters that did address off-field activities do provide a nice look at Albert and his wife, DeeDee, as people with a heart for God and for others. Sadly, however, those stories relied fully on interviews with people who know the Pujols family or outside source quotes of Albert & DeeDee. I do not believe Pujols himself was interviewed for this project.
I was most upset to read an entire chapter dedicated to 20 reasons you should believe Albert when he says he has never used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). This include such items as “I gave my life to the Lord,” where the authors write: “It bears repeating that he (Pujols) believes himself to be under marching orders from the living Jesus Christ, the Lord.” And also, “The fans,” which suggests he wants to be a real hero to the fans through talent, time, and integrity. Reason 18. His respect for the history of the game. “It is a well-established fact that Pujols respects the game and respects those who have gone before him.”
While I have no reason to believe all of these points are true and accurate statements about Albert Pujols, reading between the lines of this chapter — really more of an author opinion piece — there must be NO ONE who has admitted to using PEDs who respects the game, wants to honor the fans, or believes their abilities come from God. Or any of the other 17 things on the list, for that matter. Earlier in the chapter, in fact, the authors quote Pujols himself (from some other source, not their own interviews) in regards to Mark McGwire’s admission to use of PEDs where Pujols says, “He’s going to be judged by a higher guy, and that’s Jesus Christ — not by you, not by me, not by anybody that is around him.”
If this is truly Albert’s stand on PEDs, and he knows what he has and has not done himself, it would seem Pujols really wouldn’t CARE what anyone thinks about whether or not he’s telling the truth. So I don’t imagine he would feel that 20 Reasons to Think Pujol’s isn’t a Liar is anything but a waste of ink.
There are many ways to approach a story about someone as public as Albert Pujols. Looking at his faith played out both on and off the field is a valid and noble choice. I just wish it had turned out to be a different book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”