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Utility player Rex Hudler made sure Sosa and any other opposing player understood.

“Anyone else comes in here again, they’re free game,” Hudler said. “Open season, baby.”

That kind of attitude seems to be mostly missing these days, with players treating the game like it’s one big fraternity. Pujols himself seemed taken back early in the season when his very public hug before a game with Jim Hendry, then the general manager of the Cubs, immediately prompted talk of the Cubs having the inside track for Pujols once his contract with the Cardinals expired.

“He’s on the other side. I’m on our side. I just think it’s kind of ridiculous,” Pujols said.

That may be true, but don’t blame fans if they think the line is being blurred. They come to watch Pujols hit, not hug, and many of them have trouble understanding just what there is to love about the other team.

Pujols and Fielder are going to have a lot to talk about in the offseason. They’re the biggest catches on the free-agent market, and their new contracts likely will be among the richest ever in baseball.

They’ll have plenty of things to smile about then, plenty of time to share a few laughs.

For now, though, they should do us all a favor and just play baseball.


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at) or