Pujols, Cards: Mixup led to postgame absence
Slugger among four to leave park without addressing media
ARLINGTON -- Albert Pujols made no apologies Friday for not participating in postgame interviews following Thursday night's Game 2 of the World Series, asserting that he was available to reporters for 20 minutes after the 2-1 loss to the Rangers.
The issue became a national story on Friday when Pujols was strongly criticized in a Yahoo! Sports column, among others, for not being available to speak after the game. Pujols said that he was waiting in the dining room at Busch Stadium after the game, and that if reporters had asked the Cards' media relations director Brian Bartow to summon him, he would have come out to speak.
"What do you want me to wait, 40 minutes for you guys?" Pujols asked. "I was there in the clubhouse getting something to eat. What about the night before when I spoke for an hour and a half? That's not fair. I think with you guys, [we] have to walk on eggshells. I don't think that's fair. I was there. Usually Brian comes around and says, 'Hey, they need you over there.' Nobody approached him until 40 minutes [after the game]. You know what? Forty minutes, I was on the way home."
Pujols was one of four prominent Cardinals veterans, along with Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina, who did not speak to reporters following the loss. Of the four, though, the first baseman had by far the biggest role in the game. The two-time Gold Glove Award winner was charged with a key error in the Rangers' ninth-inning rally when he did not cut off a throw from Jon Jay on Elvis Andrus' single.
Had Pujols caught the ball, he believes he could and would have thrown out Ian Kinsler, who had rounded third base on the play. Even one out would have changed the inning drastically, since both Texas runs scored on sacrifice flies.
"The ball cut on me and I took my eye off," Pujols said. "Everybody thinks that I was going to go to the plate. If I catch that ball, I get the out at third base. That's where I was going. Everybody thinks that, 'Oh yeah, there was a play at the plate.' I wasn't going to the plate. I was going to get the guy out at third. The ball cut, and I took my eyes off. It happens, you know? It is what it is. There's nothing you can do. Just move on. Too bad that a run scored."
Most of the questions for Pujols, though, centered on what happened in the clubhouse, rather than on the field. A defiant Pujols repeatedly insisted that he did not duck reporters.
He was not at his locker when the clubhouse opened to reporters, or at any point during the postgame. The players' dining room is off-limits to media. Pujols argued that he would have come out if he had been requested, but such an occurrence is unusual.
"I guess the way you guys are ripping me, I guess I need to stay tomorrow in the clubhouse until you guys decide to talk to me, I guess," he said. "My responsibility I have is with God and my family. I don't have a responsibility with anybody else. I try to do the best that I can to represent the game of baseball. I do that.
"Sometimes you're going to make mistakes. Did I feel last night that I made a mistake? I don't think so. I was waiting, and nobody approached me. What can I do? There's nothing I can do. I did that against Philly, I did that against Milwaukee. Now it's the World Series and somebody wants to make that a big deal? That's what I don't understand. That's not fair. I did that against Philly and I did that against Milwaukee. Nobody talked about it. But all of a sudden, it's the World Series, big stage, somebody wants to make a big deal about it."
Berkman, who voiced a similar tone in a morning interview on XM Radio, was more conciliatory in the afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Berkman acknowledged that the setup, in which players from the losing team are not brought into Major League Baseball's interview room, is not ideal, and that it did not reflect especially well for four key players to leave without speaking.
"I don't think it's unfair to criticize last night, because it doesn't look good," said Berkman, widely regarded as one of the most accessible players in the Majors. "I can tell you it wasn't intentional on my part. I had nothing to do with the game, other than playing in it. The key plays in the game, I wasn't a part of. I feel it's my responsibility, if I did something good or bad, to hang around and answer those questions.
"What I would like to not see happen is have this team characterized as a team that doesn't take responsibility, because I don't think that could be any further from the truth. I think we have a lot of stand-up guys in there.
"Last night was not an organized effort to avoid the media after a tough loss. I think Major League Baseball has a poor system in place that's not beneficial to the reporters or to the players. I think it could be done a lot better where you guys get the quotes you need and the questions we need, and we don't have to answer the same questions time and time and time again to a new round of reporters."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.