Last Saturday on the national mall our collective, dormant spirits were awakened! As true patriots from across the country traveled to DC using government funded roads and subway systems, can tell you, there's nothing better than exercising one's right to free speech in America (as long as there's no Qur'an involved, evidently). As 90,000 prayed and postulated, they were blessed with the wisdom of such deities as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Albert Pujols -- Wait, what?
All sarcasm aside, it's nice that the Restoring Honor Rally was a mass, generally peaceful protest. Whether you agree with it or not, this is what the National Mall is for. Still, Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa, superstar and manager of the St. Louis Cardinals respectively, had absolutely no place on Constitution Avenue Saturday. Not only does it call into question their political and moral beliefs, it leads me to question their focus on baseball. How better to wake up a Cardinal team fighting for its playoff life than interject yourself into an emotionally charged political rally?
If I could have spoken to Albert Pujols on Saturday, I would have asked him to enter the masses and start asking some questions. In July, Pujols was asked about controversial Arizona immigration law 1070. He said, " I'm opposed to it. How are you going tell me that, being Hispanic, if you stop me and I don't have my ID, you're going to arrest me? That can't be." So what happened, Albert? You only disagree with the supporters of this law when you're not getting an award from them? Pujols knows that this ludicrous piece of legislation could change his life, possibly as soon as the next west coast road trip. I've met Albert and know that he is one of the most honorable men in baseball if not all of sports. My guess is he didn't understand the context of this rally and was pulled in by LaRussa. After hearing from his Hispanic fan base, my guess is he passes on the next offer from Beck.
Tony LaRussa gets no such benefit of the doubt. This is the guy who has allowed himself to be called "the smartest man in baseball" for years. He utilizes the nonsensical policy of batting the pitcher eighth, a strategy which has been statistically proven to not work. He gets so "intense" during the season that he's given a free pass to not show common decency to fans and reporters alike. My problem is not with LaRussa's politics. I could care less whether he's watched every Glenn Beck show or donated his entire salary to Michelle Bachmann's campaign. But if LaRussa is so clever, how can he claim that the Restoring Honor rally was "not political"? A rally that features only conservative speakers -- a rally where the 2008 Republican Vice Presidential candidate is the keynote speaker, is suddenly not political? Furthermore, how did attracting this firestorm to himself help his now dying Cardinals team?
As of Tuesday, the Cards have lost 11 of 15 to the Cubs, Brewers, Giants, Nationals and Astros. They're now six games behind the streaking Reds which is a crippling deficit in August, a near death sentence in September. As Buzz Bissinger said in his now infamous tweets about the rally, "the presence of TLR, Pujols at Beck rally only creates distraction for a team that cannot afford one."
You can say I'm being hypocritical for criticizing LaRussa and Pujols for this. Where was I when nearly the entire NBA endorsed Obama? This is different though. This is Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols putting their feelings and need for adulation above the other 24 players on the Cardinals. They may not have regretted it Saturday, but I guarantee they will when they're sitting at home in October.