"Tony is somebody that I respect," Pujols said. "He's like a dad to me. But only God knows my swing better than myself."
And that's why Pujols -- not La Russa, and not even new hitting coach Jim Eppard -- is really the only man who can help get himself out of this early-season skid.
The Angels' first baseman came into Tuesday's contest against the A's with a .212/.256/.318 slash line through 42 games, with three homers, 18 RBIs and an OPS (.573) that was better than only 12 Major League qualifiers. But a sacrifice fly and a towering solo homer in his first two plate appearances gave him 16 RBIs this month -- after ending April in a 14-game RBI drought -- as he continues to display more flashes of the great hitter he's always been.
The key is consistency -- the consistency that made him so great through 11 years in St. Louis and the one that has eluded him so far this season.
And the key to finding that, Pujols believes, is simplicity. As he said, "When your swing is right, you don't think. That's the beautiful thing."
"Hitting is hard, but you have to keep it simple," Pujols added. "As much as you know it's hard, you have to really keep it simple and go out there and swing. Sometimes, you're going to feel good. Most of the time, you don't. The times that you don't feel good is when you have to survive and get that streak going."
Heading into the second game of a three-game series at Oakland Coliseum, Pujols had been behind in the count in 64 of his 180 plate appearances (batting .156 in that situation), had hit an inordinate number of balls to the left side (causing several teams to shift) and had drawn only 10 walks.
"I was probably expanding the strike zone a little bit more if you look at it," Pujols said, "and my walks can tell you everything."
But he believes he's past that now. He believes he's more patient, not trying to do too much and, he hopes, getting to a point where he can consistently produce at the rate he's accustomed.
"Right now, I'm putting good swings," Pujols said. "Whenever it clicks, it clicks. Sometimes it takes awhile, sometimes it doesn't. As long as you don't beat yourself down and continue to press, and just go out there and get ready every day, I think that's the big thing."