Babe Ruth has just made that same gesture again! With two strikes on him, he pointed to the flagpole in the centerfield bleachers, plainly indicating that's where he means to park that next pitch! (Camera closes in on sick boy sleeping in his hospital bed, his worried parents sitting bedside. Cut back to the Babe at the plate.)
BABE RUTH (to catcher)
Sit down and rest, kid, I'm riding this one out of the park.
Oh, yeah? You and who else?
Me and a young pal of mine. (Ruth connects.)
He did it! It's a home run in the centerfield bleachers ... right where he pointed! (Camera cuts back to sick boy. His eyes open.)
—scene from The Babe Ruth Story
ALBERT PUJOLS knows that people do not believe him. He does not just know it, he lives it, breathes it, he takes it with him into the batting cage in Jupiter, Fla., on a hazy mosquito day at the St. Louis Cardinals' spring training complex. Pujols stretches out into his familiar batting stance—legs wide apart, bat quivering high above his shoulder, head up in an oddly proud way, like he's a soldier sitting on a horse, like he's posing for posterity. A batting practice pitcher throws, and Pujols rockets hard line drive after hard line drive. People marvel at how much louder and fuller the ball sounds coming off his bat than off the bat of anyone else. That sound used to make heroes. Now, it only cements his guilt in the minds of the most cynical in the great American jury.
This is the uncompromising math of 2009: The more Albert Pujols hits, the less those cynics will believe him.
He will not stop hitting, of course. That is no option. He hit his way out of the Dominican Republic. He hit his way into the American dream. In his eight years in the major leagues, Pujols, still only 29, has never hit less than .314, never hit fewer than 32 home runs, never driven in fewer than 103 runs, never finished out of the Top 10 in the MVP balloting. He is the Best Player in Baseball.