ST. LOUIS -- When rumors about superstar Albert Pujols spread on Thursday morning, the Cardinals feared the worst. When the truth came out, the club was relieved -- but the player was understandably steamed.
A report that originated with WNBC-TV in New York spread quickly before former Sen. George Mitchell's report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball was actually released. The early rumor included a list of names of players who allegedly would be cited in the report, and one name in the initial list was Pujols'.
However, when the Mitchell Report was released, Pujols' name did not appear once in the document. Pujols remained quiet during the day, but his agents issued a statement on his behalf on Thursday evening.
The statement read as follows:
"It has come to my attention that several national and local news outlets have published false reports that associated my name with the Mitchell Report. I have never disrespected, nor cheated the game of baseball and knew without a doubt that my name would not be mentioned in the official investigation. I would like to express how upset and disappointed I am over the reckless reporting that took place this morning. It has caused me and my family a lot of senseless aggravation due to their inaccurate information.
"What concerns me, is the affect this has had on my family and that my character and values have now been questioned due to the media's lack of accuracy in their reporting. I have never had a problem with the media when they do their job correctly, whether it is positive or negative -- just as long as they report truthfully.
"I would like to thank my fans for their continued support and never doubting my integrity. God has blessed me and allowed me to play a game that I would never take for granted."
WNBC has since printed on its Web site a "correction and clarification" apologizing for the incorrect information.
Cardinals brass expressed relief that Pujols was not named in Mitchell's report, but also echoed Pujols' dismay.
"I didn't think it was true," team president Mark Lamping said. "I'm glad I was right. And my thought at the time was how unfair it was to Albert, Dede [Pujols' wife] and his family that his name got thrown out in an erroneous way."
Rick Ankiel and Ryan Franklin, both previously identified in connection with the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs, were the only current Cardinals named in the report.
"Leading up to last night, we were looking at all the variables that might play out today," general manager John Mozeliak said on Thursday afternoon. "So we were relieved that none of the key members of our club were named in today's report. So in that regard I think it is a sigh of relief."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.