Evangelical Pujols to the highest bidder?

“Are you breathing, M.Z.?”

That was my immediate question this morning to my GetReligion colleague — and St. Louis Cardinals uber-fan — Mollie Ziegler Hemingway as news broke that superstar first baseman Albert Pujols will sign a 10-year, $254 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. MZ, alas, remains out of wifi and Internet range — although this story may reach her through some psychic or spiritual ripple in the universe.

As I have shared a time or two, I am a longtime Texas Rangers fan, so Pujols already played a major role in breaking my heart during the Cardinals’ improbable World Series win in October. Now, he’s headed to the Rangers’ AL West rival.

An athlete leaving a city where he’s beloved and signing a gigantic contract elsewhere wouldn’t normally be fodder for GetReligion. But in Pujols’ case, he’s an outspoken evangelical Christian and frequently talks about the role that faith plays in his career, as Mollie has noted. We are in the midst of the Tim Tebow media tsunami, as well.

In fact, I learned of Pujols’ decision via a faith-based tweet from Bob Nightengale, Major League Baseball writer for USA Today:

Pujols was weighing three offers and after praying on it chose #angels over #cardinals and mystery team

He “prayed” on his decision. Does anyone see the potential for a religion angle in the reporting on Pujols’ mammoth contract?

For a primer on the questions likely on the minds of many evangelicals/baseball fans, Godbeat pro Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post Dispatch covered them well earlier this year in a nice piece before the 2011 season even started. Townsend explored whether Christian athletes such as Pujols strike out on big-dollar contracts:

ST. LOUIS — As contract talks broke down between Albert Pujols and the Cardinals, St. Louis baseball fans began nervously asking themselves a host of questions.

He’s a Cardinal for life, right?

He wouldn’t go to Wrigley Field because he likes winning too much, right?

But a particular group of Cardinals fans—those who share his evangelical faith—was asking a different kind of question. What does holding out for the largest contract in the history of baseball say about Albert’s Christian testimony?

It’ll be interesting to see if — and how — the media tackle that question amid the obvious analysis on what Pujols’ decision means to the Angels’ — and the Cardinals’ — pennant hopes. Will reporters ask Pujols about greed? Will they ask whether this contract will allow him to do more good works? Will they report what he says at his news conference concerning his faith?

This story is breaking now, so most of the reports right now are just the basic facts. Please help us follow the story by providing links of mainstream media reports that do — and do not — cover the highly relevant religion angle.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting to hear back from my beloved colleague.

“Are you breathing, M.Z.?”

Albert Pujols photo via Shutterstock

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • http://blogprophet.wordpress.com brian

    very interesting point about how Christians and antagonists will view an openly christian athlete signing for that much, making that decision

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Great minds think alike? Religion News Service has a blog post up with links strikingly familiar to ours.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Pujols actually left money on the table, says USA Today. No mention of religion in this brief report.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Over at Christianity Today, Sarah (of GetReligion fame) asks, “How Will Christians Respond to Albert Pujols’ $250 Million Contract?”

  • Martha

    Ooh, this is six of one and half a dozen of the other. On the one hand, sports stars are on crazy money. On the other hand, it’s a scarily short career and one bad injury means you’re useless to your (or any) team, so I do quite see why a prudent player might decide to get as much as he could while his value is high, in order to support himself and his family when retirement either comes naturally or is forced upon him.

    Is this like Michael Owen leaving Liverpool? Which yes, I am still sore about, and the fact that he’s currently playing for the Red Devils is just rubbing salt in the wound :-)

  • Julia

    in Pujols’ case, he’s an outspoken evangelical Christian and frequently talks about the role that faith plays in his career,

    There have been several comments at the St Louis Post Dispatch articles about his part in destroying the only classical music radio station in St Louis in favor of yet another Christian contemporary music venue.

    People are wondering if he is taking the station with him so we can get our classical music station back.

  • Roberto

    I wrote a piece on the St. Louis Post Dispatch earlier this year. I find the entire idea of Pujols’ witness being harmed by going with the best offer risible. If he were the owner of a business selling his company for a tidy profit no one would ask the analogous question. No one would ask “what will Christians think about Joe Smith selling his company for a $250 million profit?”

    On the one hand, sports stars are on crazy money. On the other hand, it’s a scarily short career and one bad injury means you’re useless to your (or any) team, so I do quite see why a prudent player might decide to get as much as he could while his value is high, in order to support himself and his family when retirement either comes naturally or is forced upon him.

    It is “crazy money” but is it really all that “crazy” compared to what people are paid for essentially shifting electrons representing money around? Athletes like Pujols are held to a different standard because, one, their beliefs are often a matter of public record whereas who knows what bond traders and/or hedge fund managers believe, and, two, most of us played baseball or basketball when we were kids but none of us played “short Alcoa” when we were ten.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Roberto,

    I don’t see a link to the item you mentioned. Also, did you have a point to make concerning media coverage?

  • Ira Rifkin

    Perhaps it’s not Pujols who should be held to a higher standard but rather the culture that thinks athletes are worth such outsized paychecks.

  • Michael Burton

    I have been a cardinal fan all my life and never have I seen a more obvious example of greed in the situation with this man. What other reason would he have for leaving St. Louis. He could care less for the fans,the team history or baseball itself. If any other team had offered him one dollar more than the angels thats where he would have gone. This man is a fraud.


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