The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals do not like each other. It was only when Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa were juicing up and hitting homeruns like it was nobody’s business, that the two organizations experienced a period of calm in their ongoing feud. So when Albert Pujols hugged Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry during batting practice a couple of days ago, Cardinal fans were not happy. The encounter was quickly dubbed, “the hug heard around the world.”
Debate raged throughout the sports world about the propriety of the hug. Many claimed that Pujols and Hendry are friends and that they were simply sharing a warm embrace between two buddies. Others were more critical, asserting that the very public hug of a member of an opposing organization was unprofessional and done in bad taste. A substantial number of skeptics believed that Pujols initiated the hug in front of the media as a way of sending a message to the Cardinals organization that they better pay him the money that he feels he deserves or else he’ll sign with their most hated rival.
When asked about the hug, Pujols had this to say: “I figured that would happen, that they would play with it. At the end, it’s not what you do on the field. It’s what kind of person you are off the field. That’s the kind of relationship you want to build with somebody you respect. He’s on the other side. I’m on our side. I just think it’s kind of ridiculous. Three writers came and talked to me about that and the contract. Are you serious? C’mon.”
Here’s what his hugging partner, Jim Hendry, had to say: “Albert and I had always had a good relationship. I think the world of him, and that has nothing to do with what type of baseball player he is. I have all the respect in the world for him, way beyond him being a great player, and he knows that…… I’ve had a certain relationship with him for most of his career, and that’s not going to change. Shame on me if he comes to town and we don’t have a chat. I’m honored that he considers me that close.”
The last time a hug caused such an uproar was in Biblical times, when Jacob and Esau embraced. More than 20 years after Jacob ran away from home for fear of death at the hands of his brother, Esau greeted him with a hug and kiss. The commentaries differ as to whether Esau’s embrace of Jacob was sincere. The simple reading of the text indicates that his embrace was a real attempt at reconciliation. But many commentators contend that Esau’s hug of Jacob was malicious, claiming that as they hugged, Esau bit Jacob on the neck.
You can be sure that “the hug heard around the world” will be debated over for quite some time in Chicago and St. Louis. The more important question, though, is whether Pujols will leave the Cardinals as a free agent at the end of this season and sign with the Cubs. If their story plays out the way that Esau and Jacob’s did, then Cardinals fans should remain highly optimistic that he will be back in St. Louis. If you recall, Esau tried to lure Jacob into joining him for the trip back home. But instead of joining forces and teaming up for the journey, Jacob declined, preferring to remain with his immediate family.
Here’s to hoping!