Albert Pujols Is Here for Your Jerseys

One of the fun things about baseball, I think, is that players on opposing teams spend quite a lot of time standing next to each other and not moving very much. You don’t get this in basketball. If Dikembe Mutombo spent too much time standing still next to Michael Jordan, he was liable to find his face on a poster somewhere. Not so in football, either — the possibility for interaction is limited mostly to comings and goings on and off the field, and there’s a martial quality to the whole affair that inhibits relaxed conversation of the type you and I might have were we standing together quietly on a baseball field and not doing very much at all.

Anyway, last night I was mucking around on YouTube and found this video called “MLB Friend Joke“. This is a video title apparently conceived with a search engine, and not a human being, primarily in mind, and this is also what my friends fervently hope I am leading up to when I start sentences with phrases like “so I heard this great story about the 1940s Cincinnati Reds last night.” I watched this video because I was tired and didn’t have anything else to do.

And then I saw something happen twice — and happen twice in a way that made me certain that it had happened before and would happen again. I saw Albert Pujols messing with an opposing player’s jersey. Here’s what I saw, specifically:

That’s Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angel, standing on second base at Minute Maid Park and looking at Carlos Correa, 15 years his junior. Pujols raises his hands skyward, just above the level of his shoulder. He’s relaxed! He’s casual! He’s definitely not going to do anything to your jersey!

But then, just after the umpire has walked out of the shot, he does. A swing of the left hand gently up to belt level follows (with hindsight, we can see this was a nervous tic, a preparation for the heinous act that was to come), and then, the act itself: a swift tug on the soft white cloth in front of him, first up and then down, with the massive head looking away at first just to maintain, for a moment, the illusion that he is in fact disinterested in the outcome. But of course he isn’t. Not at all. Albert Pujols is here to mess with your jersey.

This action shocked me, to my core. But then, moments later, it happened again. Same video. Same action. This one was a drive-by, a brutal act made more brutal by the fact that it happened to the most aged among us: Bartolo Colon. A fly out to center field. A glance at the culprit. And then, before you can even say, “I had no memory whatsoever of Seth Smith as an Oakland Athletic,” it’s over. The Machine has struck again, and the victim can only laugh. My favorite thing about this second clip is that Colon doesn’t even really look at Pujols after the deed is done. He knows who did it. He’s not surprised. His only concern is with looking down, near his belly, to see how much damage was done.

Readers, I’m going to level with you: I don’t know much. There are so many things I have yet to learn all that much about. But I know this for sure: if a YouTube video called “MLB Friend Joke” contains not one but two clips of Albert Pujols messing with someone else’s jersey, then this kind of thing isn’t an isolated incident. Far from it, in fact. I am sure that our first-base friend has struck many, many times. So I leave it to you, the baseball-watching public — and I am thinking in particular, here, of Angels fans — to send me any clips you have, of any length at all, of this behavior happening out there in the wild. There is a typology of these things out there in the ether, and we’re going to create it together. Godspeed.

Rian Watt is a contributor to FanGraphs based in Seattle. His work has appeared at Vice, Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic, FiveThirtyEight, and some other places too. By day, he works with communities around the world to end homelessness.

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6 years ago

Miggy has been doing this for years

6 years ago
Reply to  chad

It’s interesting how these fun little pranks travel.

Years ago some friends stayed with me while passing through town. As we caroused late into the evening/early into the morning, one of them hid in my closet. Then, when I went to bed, he sprang from the darkness to give me quite the humorous startle.

I tried to recreate this upon a friend of mine awhile later under similar circumstances, only I fell asleep while waiting in the closet & was unceremoniously dragged into the hallway when he & a female companion entered the room (to canoodle, presumably) & saw my leg hanging out of the closet.

6 years ago
Reply to  grandbranyan

cistulli is that you?