When the Angels signed first baseman Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $250 million free agent contract, they were understandably excited about the acquisition. The addition of the best hitter of a generation added legitimacy to the lineup and immediately made them a World Series contender, which gave the team a great opportunity to boost their ticket sales for this season. With that in mind, the Angels Communications department put together an extensive billboard campaign to get the word out and the community buzzing about the newest Angel. The team put out 70 billboards with a picture of Pujols in his new Angels uniform in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties, 20 of them with the words “El Hombre” like in the banner picture. One problem…Albert Pujols doesn’t like that nickname.
The issue comes from Albert’s last team in St. Louis, where they have a Hall of Famer by the name Stan “The Man” Musial. Pujols and Musial became acquainted during Albert’s time as a Cardinal, and the slugger came away with such a deep respect for Musial, that he asked the St. Louis media and fans to stop calling him “El Hombre” because he felt it infringed on Musial’s legacy and well-earned moniker.
“…I prefer not to use (El Hombre),” Pujols said Wednesday.
“I still have the same respect for him as I had, not just for what he’s done in baseball but for what he did for this country. That’s something you have to appreciate.”
Looking at the career of Musial, it’s easy to see why Pujols has such high respect for him. Musial began playing in the 1940s, and when World War II broke out, Musial left baseball to enlist, skipping the 1945 season to join the Navy. During his 22-year career, Musial was a .331 career hitter, going to 20 consecutive (minus the ’45 season he missed) All-Star games and won the MVP award three times. After he left the service, Musial continued to work extensively with the USO and other groups and charities to benefit service men and women around the world. Last year, the 90-year old Musial was awarded the Medal of Freedom which is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a civilian. Yeah, it’s easy to see how he got to be called “The Man.”
Pujols respect is easy to understand, but the misunderstanding caused by the Angels communication department is a little harder to grasp. This was a nickname that Pujols had publicly asked people to stop using for him just a couple years ago, so it’s not a surprise that he was unhappy having the nickname thrust back onto him. By failing to contact Pujols or his agent before moving forward with this campaign, they’ve managed to ruffle the feathers of Pujols just a couple of days into his first Spring Training. Angels Vice President for communications Tim Mead defended the campaign:
“We’re aware of his feelings about that now…it’s one prong of our campaign, no its full-fledged focus.”
While it is only part of the Pujols push made by the Angels in the community, it would have been nice to have the new cornerstone of the team go through at least a week of Spring Training before venting frustration with the organization. Maybe the next time the Angels sign the best hitter of a generation to a historic deal, Tim Mead and his team can do a little extra research into what people don’t like being called.