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Pujols, New Coke have much in common

Updated: May 19, 2012 2:56PM

A year ago, Albert Pujols was a post-modern Stan Musial. Today, he is a living,
breathing ‘‘John Carter.’’

(‘‘John Carter’’ cost $250 million
or so to make and was a bust at the box office. Pujols cost
$250 million or so to land and has been a bust at the ballpark.)

Pujols thought he was going to Disneyland. Instead, he has wound up in Dante’s Inferno.

In the offseason, Pujols, 32, left St. Louis for Southern California. He became the second baseball player ever to sign a $200 million-plus contract. Remarkably, Alex Rodriguez has done it twice — with the Rangers and the Yankees — and might become the first player to return the money with a note that says, ‘‘Oops — can’t hit no more.’’

Pujols is the only player in major-league history to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first 11 seasons. Entering this week — in this, his 12th season — he had three. He has averaged 40.5 homers a season in his career; he’s currently on pace to hit 12.

Right now, he couldn’t hit the side of a barn if he fell asleep with his bat resting on the side of a barn. If he jumped out of a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, he might not hit water.

He went without a homer in his first 27 games with the Angels, sat out one game, then finally connected in his 28th game and 111th at-bat with the team.

Have I mentioned Pujols has three homers this season? I hate to be critical, but how hard can it be? Heck, Josh Hamilton hit four homers last week in less than
2½ hours.

Now, if Pujols — who signed a 10-year contract — doesn’t defunkify, we’re looking at something that goes beyond massive free-agent bust; he’s entering hallowed cultural territory. Here are, unofficially, the five biggest flops of the last half-century in American life:

◆ New Coke (1985): Was anybody complaining about Coca-Cola? What were they thinking? This was like adding skylights and terraces to the Pyramids.

◆ Chevy Chase’s talk show (1993): Magic Johnson’s talk show actually was worse, but he was a point guard. Chase is an entertainer.

◆ Ben-Gay Aspirin (1990s): Yes, Ben-Gay Aspirin. For real. I mean, I’ll smear that delightfully smelly stuff on my back, but do I care to swallow it?

◆ Dennis Miller on “Monday Night Football” (2000-01): I still have nightmares of the former funny guy referring to Mike Shanahan as ‘‘Shanny’’ 37 times in four quarters.

◆ Susan B. Anthony dollar (1979-81, 1999): Hey, I was as big a fan of women’s suffrage as the next guy, but I don’t want some feminist coin rolling around my pocket and ruining the feng shui of my favorite quarters and dimes.

Frankly, Pujols never should’ve abandoned the Cardinals. Stan The Man never left St. Louis. Joseph Pulitzer never left
St. Louis. The Gateway Arch never has left St. Louis.

In addition, Pujols didn’t consider the adjustment of living in Southern California. St. Louis is so small, most players walk to games; Los Angeles is so large, most players helicopter to games.

Plus, Pujols failed to grasp the geography of the area. He thought he was coming to Los Angeles when, in fact, he was coming to Orange County. He likely was thrown by the ‘‘Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’’ moniker, which is marketing malarkey.

(It’s like real estate that’s labeled ‘‘Beverly Hills adjacent,’’ which means you live near the rich but not among them. If you’re lucky, you can get a whiff of the foie gras from their trash bins.)

In Pujols’ defense, SoCal makes fools of a lot of people. For instance, sources tell me former Lakers forward Lamar Odom wasn’t even sure which Kardashian he was marrying; next thing you know, he’s down and out in Dallas.

Anyway, there’s still hope for Pujols. As it turns out, ‘‘John Carter’’ is doing pretty well overseas.

Hmm. Is there a Gateway Arch in Japan?

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