CBS baseball columnist Scott Miller certainly understands the difference. His column today is a must read.
When it gets ugly for Albert Pujols -- and it's going to get ugly for Albert Pujols -- he'll have himself to blame. Because it didn't have to be this way. Pujols could have been Derek Jeter. He could have been Cal Ripken. He could have been Ernie Banks or Ryne Sandberg or, yes, Stan Musial. Instead he'll be Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez or Gary Sheffield, just another big-bopping mercenary playing out the string in a city he chose because it offered the biggest selection of his favorite color: green. And if there's one thing sports fans don't have tolerance for, it's a mercenary who isn't earning his keep.
It's not just what will happen late in his career, when Pujols turns 40 -- or maybe 45; there are scouts who believe he was born in the 1970s, not 1980 -- but what will happen as soon as he hits a prolonged slump. Pujols just signed for A-Rod money, and A-Rod gets no slack from Yankees fans. Same goes for Pujols when he starts another season the way he started 2011, hitting .233 in early May and languishing 50 points below his career batting average into August. Fans in L.A. will see his batting average on the scoreboard and they'll boo. That's what fans do, especially to players who make about $60,000 per plate appearance and who spend an evening at the ballpark striking out twice and grounding into a double play. That's $180,000, down the tubes.
This is the future for Albert Pujols, just as it's the future for all but baseball's immortals. Pujols could have been one of those, but he sold his soul. At least he got top dollar for it.