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Albert should take the lead

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 11, 2009 - It’s time, Albert, it’s time.

It’s one thing to be the best. It’s another to be the strongest.

Albert Pujols is the best player in Major League Baseball, in my humble estimation. It is now time for him to be the game’s strongest player. This strength should not be measured in the distance of a majestic home run or in the power in his sturdy forearms.

No, this strength must be judged by the amount of fortitude the God-fearing Pujols carries inside his gifted body.

Pujols must do what few players have dared in the storied history of baseball. Curt Flood did it. It crushed his career.

Pujols must stand up to his fellow players, his powerful union and Commissioner Bud Selig. While he has made statements that describe his personal distaste for steroids, human growth hormone and performance enhancing drugs, he has yet to call out another player, coach, union leader or baseball itself for creating an atmosphere where anabolic cheating somehow became a part of the game.

The first step should be a loud proclamation that his name is not among the 104 that tested positively for steroid use when Major League Baseball tested all players anonymously in 2003. We have since learned that the testing was anything but indiscreet as Alex Rodriguez’ name was leaked to a Sports Illustrated writer.

But the world doesn’t know who the other players are, and for all we know Pujols’ name could be on that list.

He MUST come out and say, “I’m not on there.”

Pujols must then rally as many players as he can to blast their own secret cheaters and demand a serious doping policy for Major League Baseball, one similar to that used for Olympic athletes. Forget a 50-game suspension. Try missing an entire season or two if you are busted.

Pujols’ next move should then be to challenge Players’ Union head Donald Fehr and Selig to quit ducking, dodging and blaming one another long enough to truly battle steroid and HGH use.

This means the two mean – and team owners – would have to follow Pujols’ advice and accept blood testing of its athletes.

Fehr has cried “invasion of privacy.” Selig says with a crooked smile that it is the union that stops this kind of policy, but in reality the last thing he wants is a true head count of who is and who isn’t on performance enhancers.

Owners control Selig, so maybe it is unfair to target him. Selig can’t truly shut down baseball, but its owners can.

If they locked players out until they ratified a contract that called for the most stringent of tests, players would ultimately give in.

The majority of baseball players aren’t on any kind of enhancer, but enough of them are that every team would be impacted if people were “outted.”

Don’t be fooled, owners don’t want this. They want big crowds, long home runs and the ongoing fallacy that the game is cleaning itself up.

It’s not.

Just ask Manny Ramirez and his agent Scott Boras. I’m not buying the “I didn’t know” argument from anyone, let alone one of the game’s biggest stars.

Our morning routine in the Reid household includes my daughter Bryson watching Good Morning America, which I can’t stand. Blaine and I usually watch the news or ESPN SportsCenter before Carmen or I take them to school.

So this week, they both got an earful about a guy taking women’s hormonal medication in order to play baseball better.

I didn’t even try to explain it to them. But girls of 10 and 8 years old – or any child - should not be introduced to this kind of nonsense before they truly even know what is going on during a baseball game.

This crap has to end and Pujols can help make it happen. He is believed to be clean, but there are people who doubt him.

He has to speak out and speak often.

Yet, he heeds the code of silence policy when it comes to calling out fellow players. He doesn’t want to embarrass any managers or trainers.

This isn’t being strong on behalf of baseball. This is being weak.

If Albert Pujols is truly baseball’s savior, it’s time for him to risk being crucified in the press by many of his fellow players and baseball management.

It’s time for Pujols to be the superstar the game of baseball truly needs.

Alvin A. Reid is a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri Press Association as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly.