The Los Angeles Angels gave Saturday night off to slumping slugger Albert Pujols, and his replacement responded by giving his team its first home run by a first baseman all season. It figures.
Considering the Angels still owe Pujols most of the $240 million contract he signed in the offseason, there's no reason to think that Mark Trumbo will turn into another Lou Gehrig and Pujols will become a modern-day Wally Pipp, whom the Iron Horse famously replaced.
Still, Wally Pippujols has a certain ring to it.
And Scioscia must consider his one-night stand without Albert a success. The Angels beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-2 behind nine strikeouts over eight innings from left-hander C.J. Wilson. Rookie outfielder Mike Trout had two hits, including a home run, and DH Kendrys Morales went 3 for 5 in the cleanup spot. Trumbo, who has been trying to convert to third base with very shaky results, added his fourth home run of the season, upping his batting average to .297. That's pretty much how they drew it up in spring training — except for Pujols' massive slump and the Angels having a record of 11-17.
Angels fans booed Pujols throughout Friday's game, and afterward Pujols said they had reason to, and that he was a "big boy" and could take it. He said little after manager Mike Scioscia made out the Angels lineup card without Pujols in it for the first time this season. When approached by reporters before the game, the three-time NL MVP indicated he also was taking a night off from talking.
''Go ask the manager, not me, guys. I don't make the lineup.''
Scioscia said he wanted to give Pujols, who is batting .194 with no home runs 27 games into his new life with the Angels, some time to clear his head:
''Sometimes you're grinding, and nobody grinds harder than Albert,'' Scioscia said. ''I think he's frustrated just from the fact that he knows there's a lot he feels that he can contribute. Sometimes when you're trying to find something and you're pounding your head against the wall, you need to just get off that treadmill for a second and get back on the next day.''
That means we should expect Pujols in the lineup Sunday. The same couldn't be said for Pipp, who was victimized by a slump in 1925 at a time when the Yankees were failing as a team and manager Miller Huggins wanted to shake up the lineup. The '25 Yankees finished 69-85, but Gehrig didn't rest again for 14 years. Pipp was out of the game by 1929, but would become one of its most notorious anecdotes, footnotes and metaphors.
Pujols, who at 32 is the same age as Pipp was in 1925, isn't going to finish his career the same way. Not only is he owed a large fortune, but he's just a better player. He's just in a slump. He's pressing. Perhaps he's not the player he used to be, but Pujols is no Pipp.
It's not that Pujols is destined to come out today and hit three homers and go on a tear after getting a day off, though he might. But he's going to get his, sooner or later.