Of course, getting all of St. Louis to stay calm and keep their composure after seeing the face of its franchise crumpled in a painful heap and writhing in pain near the first base coaches' box is easier said than done.
After all, how can we expect the Cardinals' fanbase to not hit the panic button when their skipper and supposed leader, Tony La Russa can't even hold it together? After a news briefing about Albert Pujols' injury that soured the mood at La Russa's charity golf event, the St. Louis Cardinals manager let down his guard.
"I'm going to go find a place to cry," La Russa said.
Now, that may be a little over-dramatic, but I must admit, I feel for the Cardinals organization and its fans. Albert Pujols has been the best baseball player on the planet over the last decade.
Albert Pujols’ roller-coaster season continued on Sunday when the all-world slugger injured his left wrist and shoulder in a collision at first base with the Royals’ Wilson Betemit, casting a shadow over the Cardinals’ 5-4 win.
The Cardinals confirmed Monday that Pujols would miss 4-6 weeks after tests confirmed a fracture in Pujols' wrist. The tests, however, showed no damage to his shoulder. The team had been optimistic after Sunday’s game that the injury was not serious.
“All I can tell you right now is I’m sore,” Pujols told reporters after the game. “Am I worried at all? Of course.”
"He hit me on my wrist and my shoulder," Pujols said afterward. "He kind of jammed me back. It's the toughest play to make as a first baseman. It's a bang-bang play. I saw the replay a couple of times, but I didn't really want to look at it."
Betemit said there was no way to avoid the collision.
"I was running hard and the ball arrived at the same time I got to the base," Betemit said. "That's part of the game. I couldn't do anything about it."
This is the second time this season that a 'bang-bang play' caused an injury to one of Major League Baseball's biggest stars. Buster Posey's collision with Scott Cousins at home plate on May 25 knocked the Giant's young all-star caliber catcher out for the remainder of the season with a fractured bone and torn ligaments in his left leg.
These plays are occurring more and more often, so it begs the question - does it warrant a rule change to better protect the players?
In many lower-level baseball and softball leagues, “double bags” are used to avoid such collisions, one for the first baseman and one for the runner. While that solution may not be acceptable for Major League Baseball, perhaps the answer could be something in another form derived from the two-bag concept. Perhaps a less obtrusive flap that was attached to the base and was situated in foul territory would be acceptable?
However, as in the case of the Posey/Cousins collision, this injury to Albert Pujols will prove to be little more than a temporary black eye on the baseball world that will fade away over time, which means that a rule change probably isn't on the horizon.
Also, what long-term impact might this injury have on Pujols' career? Past players who have had this type of injury were never the same. If Albert Pujols follows that track, his free-agent price tag will drop -- by a lot.
Pujols is heading into free agency after this season, after negotiations before spring training fell through when he reportedly declined an eight-year deal from St. Louis worth more than $200 million. Looking back on it now, that could prove to be a poor decison. Teams may be reluctant to dole out A-Rod style money to a 31-year-old slugger coming off such a serious injury.
For the season, Pujols is hitting .279 with 17 home runs and 45 R.B.I. Along with his batting average, both his on-base and slugging percentages, .355 and .500 respectively, are significantly lower than his career averages of .423 and .619.
If he's going to ask for top-dollar, Pujols is going to have to finish the season much stronger than he started it in order to get the money that he deserves on the open market.
But what does this mean for the Cardinals' season?
Though they're losing one of their team leaders and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer for an extended period of time, they are far from dead on arrival.
While Pujols - the only player in major league history to bat .300 with at least 30 home runs and 100 R.B.I. his first 10 seasons is out of commission - the Cardinals will look to Lance Berkman to fill in for most of the starts at first base until No. 5 comes back.
The 'Big Puma' has gotten his groove back to the tune of a torrid .303 BA/17 HR/51 R.B.I. season, putting up the kinds of numbers he used to back in his glory days with the Astros.
That's not to say Pujols is going to be easy to replace. Teams aren't nearly as afraid to pitch to Berkman as they are to Big Albert. Because of that, the rest of the heart of the order is going to have to step up in order to fill the offensive hole.
This injury is the latest obstacle the Cardinals have had to work around this season.
Pujols was hurt three days after cleanup hitter Matt Holliday returned from a quadriceps injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list, and Holliday also missed time following an appendectomy.
Third baseman David Freese, second baseman Skip Schumaker and pitcher Kyle McClellan have also missed significant time for a franchise that early in spring training lost 20-game winner Adam Wainwright for the season.
"It's tough," pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "It's kind of been the story to the season, it just seems like every month something's happening."
But despite the countless injuries they've dealt with this season, St. Louis is in a pretty good spot right now.
After losing seven straight, the Cardinals have won two in a row and sit a 1/2 game behind the Brewers for first in the National League Central, a division nobody seemingly ever wants to win.
In conclusion, the Beard and Stache have a message for the Cardinals and their fans: Don't drown yourself in despair. You may be without your star first baseman for a while, but injuries are a part of sports. It's time to pick yourself up off the floor, stop the tears, and forge ahead. After all, one player does not a team make - not even one as talented and skilled as Pujols.
The Cardinals are a deep and talented group and the baseball season is LONG. You still have time to make that playoff push.
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