With the Orioles in Canada, I headed down to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night to catch some National League baseball. My mission was to interview three-time National League Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols before the Cardinals took batting practice. In preparing to speak with the slugger, I ran through some research and admittedly became jealous - not of Pujols, but of the Cardinals.
Frankly, I'm not accustomed to seeing those types of offensive numbers. The team batting average is a NL-leading .270. Their 316 team RBIs also lead the NL. Mostly though, it occurred to me that when Matt Holliday returns from the disabled list this week, their three, four and five spots in the lineup will consist of Pujols, Holliday and Lance Berkman. Can you imagine how nice it must be for Tony LaRussa to just pencil that in night after night?
Can anybody think of the last time the Orioles had that type of talent in the middle of the lineup? Maybe 1970, with Boog Powell, Frank Robinson, and Brooks Robinson? Or 1983, with Cal Ripken zJr. and Eddie Muarry, but then can we truly place the platoon of Gary Roenicke and John Lowenstein in the five-hole in that discussion?
Chatting with some major league scouts in the Nationals press box, we were debating what team currently has the best middle of the lineup in baseball. Here are our contenders:
Boston's Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and Kevin Youkilis
New York's Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira
Cincinnati's Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips
Texas' Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young
Which one would you take? I'd go with Pujols, Holliday and Berkman anyday.
I asked Pujols if he feels the Cardinals' middle of the lineup just wears pitchers out by the second and third time through the order. He was pretty humble in his answer.
"You don't want to get ahead of yourself. It's kind of like you need to go out there and play the game, don't disrespect the game," said Pujols. "I really approach everybody the same. It's part of respecting the game and not taking anything for granted; and I enjoy it. I enjoy every matchup, every night whether it's a guy from the bullpen or a guy that's starting. I enjoy it because I know they are going to bring their best against my best every night and hopefully I come out on top."
Usually Pujols comes out on top. For the record, he really does speak like the "Terminator" robot he portrays in the popular ESPN commercial. I just kept waiting for him to shoot a laser beam through my eyes or something.
You can catch the entire Pujols interview Thursday on MASN. It will air on "The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" at 5:30 p.m.