How many Major League teams would love to have a slugger whose average was in the top 40% of the league? How about the top 10% in RBI’s? Or the top 10% in Home Runs? What if one player had each of these statistics, wouldn’t that garner some attention?
Normally these numbers would be accompanied by a shower of praise from the media, fans, and the league. But not if you’re Albert Pujols. As of today he is in the top 40% of batting average and the top 10% of RBI’s and Home Runs. Yet that’s not enough? While a two Home Run performance yesterday will surely quiet many of the critics, the articles, radio stories, and SportsCenter headlines were piling up in regards to Pujols‘ “slumping” season.
We’ve all experienced this before in our own personal and professional lives. We become victims of our own success. Johnny Tree Trimmer is so fast at cutting down trees, he is automatically expected to take on more work. Sally the Bookkeeper is so good with numbers, friends and family believe she will do their taxes and accounting for them. Kyle the Car Salesman sells 20 cars in a month and is expected to sell 25 the next month. However, when we can’t accomplish the unrealistic and ever-increasing goals set upon us by our success, there must be something wrong, right? That’s the way we operate. No accomplishment can be set aside and viewed on its own merits. It has to be compared with past accomplishments to see if you are falling short of your own success.
So even as Albert Pujols is projected to have another 30+ Home Run season and another 100+ RBI season, he is slumping. Even as he is on pace to make another All-Star Game appearance, he is slumping. Even as he has helped lead a short-handed Cardinals team to first place in the National League Central, he is slumping. None of this will matter as he is standing on the podium in 10-15 years from now accepting his first ballot Hall of Fame induction, but it matters now.
The truth is, every question about Pujols‘ declining numbers this season is a compliment to his career. By year’s end, when Pujols has had another Pujolian season (I’m trademarking that phrase, thank you), sports writers like Jayson Stark of ESPN will post articles about how great Albert Pujols is and how he knew all along that Pujols was the same slugger he has always been. They will forget about the stories posted in late May and early June about non-existent struggles and manufactured slumps. So as Albert Pujols should take these small digs as compliments to his success, so should we in our own lives. As victims of our own success, we have to always be improving, always increasing productivity, and never slumping. But when questions about our performance arise, think of them as subtle congratulations for past work, then move on and strive to do more.