Pressing players for answers

I'm nominating Dan Lozano for "Happiest Man in the World" today.

I'll give you 10 seconds to figure out why.

OK, time's up. Lozano is the agent who represents Albert Pujols.

Cha-ching!

Pujols set a World Series record last night with 14 total bases. He joined Babe Ruth (twice) and Reggie Jackson as the only players to hit three home runs in the same game. I'm also pretty sure he's the only player to drive a ball into another state without using his car.

Apparently, this guy will do anything to avoid talking to the media at his locker.

Pujols made it into the interview room as a member of the winning team who just happened to turn in one of the greatest performances in baseball history. No special requests were necessary.

So much for that controversy.

I missed part of Pujols' historic night because I was busy watching Michigan State ruin my overtime hopes with a Hail Mary at the end to defeat No. 6 Wisconsin. I wanted free football. Instead, I got a finish for the ages. But back to Pujols ...

He's also not signing with the Orioles.

I don't see how the Cardinals let him walk as a free agent. If they do, someone else will break the bank for him.

By now, you're aware of the controversy Pujols created by not making himself available to the media following Game 2. Pujols committed a costly error in the ninth inning, though the official scorer needed about 90 minutes to make a decision. Pujols took full responsibility for not catching Jon Jay's throw from center field, allowing the Rangers' Elvis Andrus to take second base and eventually score the go-ahead run, but not until the next day.

Three of Pujols' teammates also pulled a disappearing act.

So why should fans care whether a player talks to reporters?

FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal and the New York Post's Joel Sherman give their reasons, and I can't argue with either one.

I'm on record as saying that pitcher Scott Erickson was my least-favorite player to cover during my time at The Sun. And keep in mind that I also covered Albert Belle. However, I always respected how Erickson stood at his locker after every start, whether he won or lost. He never ducked us.

It was pointless for me to approach him in a hallway or another part of the clubhouse on the days he wasn't pitching.

One of my classic exchanges with Erickson went something like this:

Me: "Hey Scott, do you have a minute?"

Erickson: "Not for you."

Well, OK ...

Mike Timlin wasn't much of a closer with the Orioles, but he was a stand-up guy. He'd blow a save and wait for reporters at his locker. And when we'd thank him afterward, he'd remind us that accountability was part of the job.

Reliever Alan Mills was cooperative with the media after a poor performance, but he bristled when reporters waited until those moments to approach him. Toss him a "hello" once in a while. Make small talk. Ask about the family. Whatever. Just don't ignore him until he lost a lead.

Fair enough. Mills was a pleasure to talk to, so that arrangement worked fine for me. He still ranks among my all-time favorites.

You've heard this one before, but I'll repeat it: Catcher Chris Hoiles was our go-to guy one season after most of his teammates began hiding after games. They'd load up a plate and head to the trainers room, lounge or any other location that was off-limits to the media.

Hoiles showered after one game, walked to his locker wearing only a towel, turned around and saw a pack of reporters gathered a few feet away.

"What did I do?" he asked.

"You came out of the shower," I replied.

Hoiles smiled and took our questions. It wasn't fair that he had become the team spokesman, but I always appreciated how he accepted the responsibility without complaint.

Mike Mussina loved to make us wait. He must chew his food 150 times. And he once scolded a young pitcher for rushing to finish his meal while reporters stood at the rookie's locker.

Again, fair enough. I didn't want the kid to get indigestion. My deadline wasn't his concern. But Mussina's lecture wasn't well-received, especially when it came within earshot of other pitchers who looked up to him.

Perhaps a better plan would be to meet with the media first, then fill a plate, especially when the pitcher is a central figure in the story.

I've written enough about Erik Bedard, his one-word answers and his smirk. I'd find them more acceptable if he was winning 15-20 games every season. But I worked around the problem by not quoting him, no matter how he pitched. I'm sure that arrangement suited him, as well.

Will Clark was so cooperative, he once held a microphone for one of the local TV crews while sitting at his locker. Jeff Reboulet was doubled over in laughter.

Luke Scott can fill up a notebook, though the topics tend to stray from baseball. If I'm going to mention guns in a blog entry, it's usually the kind that measure fastballs. But I still get a kick out of him and appreciate his warm and pleasant demeanor. He's a handshake-and-a-smile guy who doesn't make us feel like we're intruding.

Pujols dismissed Thursday night's controversy as a simple miscommunication, laying most of the blame at the feet of the Cardinals' PR staff. Nobody else was buying it. Then he went out last night and hit three home runs.

Somewhere, Dan Lozano is smirking like Erik Bedard.

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