By Steven Keys

...Pujols_041412_LAA_wc.cc_M.O'LearyA walk’s as good as a hit.’ That’s a baseball truism.

Some others:

Never intentionally put the winning run on base late;

Never slide head-first into 1st…or any base, for that matter;

Match-ups: go lefty (bat) v. righty (pitch) and vice versa;

American League is fastball – slider, National, fastball – change-up, or is that reversed?;

Never, ever, let a dog carry your bat in its mouth.’

Management has its own truisms:

A serious title shot trumps a serious prospect;

Tax-payer funding for a new stadium is an ownership entitlement;

Siren Song Rule: Absent hometown rate, always walk from a huge, long-term, franchise-anchoring deal for the megastar who’s leveling off (stats) and showing some age (DL).’

And that last one is just what the Cardinals and Rangers took to heart as both ‘took a pitch (agent’s)’ and chose to walk away rather than re-sign their respective, well-decorated superstars Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to big, long-term deals.

The Cufflinks (and fans) in St. Louis and Arlington couldn’t be happier with their decisions. It saved a lot a’ loot, opened the door to new talent, both clubs are in the thick of their pennant races and Misters Pujols & Hamilton are, so far, looking pretty tired.

Icing on the cake would be if their respective division rivals Pittsburgh & Oakland started on a couple of serious 2nd-half swoons. Don’t hold your breath, Bucs and Athletics got means.

Pujols is resting on 15-day DL (foot-boot / 7-27), reports he won’t need surgery and hopes to return this season (ESPNT 8-2), more likely just to test-out recovery. For his part, Hamilton has made two trips to the DL (back / wrist) and still struggles to find his groove in a better-than-average Halos’ line-up.

Pujols: 99G / 64 RBI / 17 HR / 49R / .258 / .330 OB%
Hamilton: 99G / 50 RBI / 16 HR / 51R / .226 / .283 OB%

But as pleased as are the Midwesterners, Cufflinks in Anaheim remain hopeful about their pricey investments, dreading worst-case scenarios and trying to maintain a stiff upper-lip.

The Angels aren’t alone.

That list of teams lured by the attraction of a superstar who proves to be played-out, a fraud (PEDs) or subject to plain bad luck (injury) is long, with varying degrees of bust.

Recent under-performing biggies: A-Rod (NYY); R.A. Dickey & Jose Reyes (TOR); Adam Dunn (CHI); Johan Santana (NYM); Alphonso Soriano (CHI) and Barry Zito (SF).

Another truism: no risk, no gain. You want a winner, gotta’ take some chance and roll the dice. And not just free agency, but trades, drafts, call-ups / send-downs, all of it.

More often, the big gamble has paid off, proof going back as far as King Kelly (BSN 1887), John Clarkson (BSN 1888), Babe Ruth (NYY 1920) and today’s Prince Fielder (DET ‘12) who proves the cautious-take (STL / TEX) can sometimes be just plain stingy (MIL).

And who’s to say some of these over / under guys (paid / perform), like Josh, Albert, R.A. and Jose won’t still turn-it-around? There’s still time.

It’s true, Pujols and Hamilton put up some red flags in final stints with their formers, as Al’s numbers slipped (99 RBI / .299 BA) and Josh doing his DL-thing with some post-season flubs. Mere aberrations to the owner who wants an MLB championship sooner than later.

And there in may be the silver-lining in Halos’ cloud of gloom.

In owner Arte Moreno, Halos have a leader who appears eager to win, a manager in Mike Scioscia who knows how and a management team in Jerry Dipoto (GM) & John Carpino (Prez) that are striking a balance with youth (Trumbo / Trout) and experience. Now they need that health-fairy to sweep those injury-bugs outta’ the club-house.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo Credit: A. Pujols / 4-14-12 / / M. O’Leary

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