Camp talk: On Dice-K, Scutaro and Pujols

February, 18, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Greetings from the Fort, where it’s been years since the weather was this perfect for the first week of camp. I trust that doesn’t rank as rubbing it in, on a spring-like day back in New England.

Friday’s schedule includes physicals for the position players who haven’t taken them and another day of regular workouts for the pitchers, with Daisuke Matsuzaka and the bullpen crew all scheduled to throw side sessions today.

Marco Scutaro chatted with reporters for a short time this morning, and drew laughs when he said he celebrated Terry Francona’s declaration that he was the starting shortstop by throwing a barbecue.

The good-natured sarcasm continued when asked how he reacted to the raft of Sox signings this winter. “Another barbecue,’’ he said.

Had a lot of responses to my column suggesting that the Red Sox, as preposterous as it sounds, might enter the Albert Pujols sweepstakes next winter, if it gets to that point. Riled up some Cardinals fans, while many of you also pooh-poohed the idea that Pujols would be willing at this stage of his career to be a DH. I said as much, but also suggested that if the price is right, Pujols would be a midfielder for Liverpool, too.

Thinking about Pujols reminded me of how close the Red Sox came to drafting him back in 1999. The story was told to me while I was working for The Boston Globe by Ernie Jacobs, a former homicide
investigator in Wichita (he worked on the notorious “BTK’’ case) who became a Red Sox scout.

There was a kid playing shortstop for Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City. In his first game, he turned an unassisted triple play and hit a grand slam. His name was Albert Pujols. He had moved to the area from the Dominican Republic when he was 16, the youngest in a family of 11 children.

Jacobs, in his first year as a full-time scout, fell in love. Not everyone did.

"First of all," Jacobs told me some years ago, "his body wasn't great back then. Plus, people weren't sure how old the guy was. You assumed what he told you was true, but he wasn't a great body, and his swing was a little long.

"But he had big-time power, and you can't walk away from that kind of power. You do your homework, you study his aptitude, you figure you can fine-tune his swing and get his body better. His hands were very good for his size, and he had a good arm, playing shortstop."

Jacobs urged the Sox to send a cross-checker. Wayne Britton, the scouting director at the time, passed. That year, the Sox drafted Rick Asadoorian, a local kid, with their No. 1 pick.

Still, before the 10th round, the Sox called and told Jacobs they would draft Pujols with their next pick -- if he met a couple of conditions.

"They called and told me they were going to draft Albert for me," Jacobs said. "But there were a couple of stipulations. First of all, can he play third base for Lowell? I told them, 'Sure he can.' Then they said, 'He's got to be a quick sign.' I said, 'We may have a little issue.' I remember the kid saying he wanted to sign for $100,000, $150,000. I had a feeling that it wasn't going to take that, but it might drag out all summer."

Jacobs tried to reach Pujols by phone, but couldn’t reach him.

"The Cardinals took him three rounds later, and the rest is history."

Pujols confirmed for me a few years ago that he knew of Boston’s interest. “They came close,’’ he said.

Jacobs does not say he expected Pujols to join Manny Ramirez as one of the foremost right-handed hitters of this generation. But he lamented what might have been.

"I lost my Hall of Famer," Jacobs told me, "in my very first year."

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?