There is really no earthly correlation between Albert Pujols's decision to join up with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Shane Battier's plan to sign with the Miami Heat. Both just happened to be major (in very different ways, mind you) transactions that hit Twitter around the same time. Pujols was the mega-prize of basbeall's offseason, its climax; Battier is the most notable NBA free agent to be linked to a new team, signaling that this frantic period of player movement has begun.
More to the point, though, Pujols is an enormous individual talent going for self, able to gracefully bow out of St. Louis, the city some thought he would never leave, because he has hung World Series banners there. Battier is team incarnate—unselfish, but also nearly parasitic, his game premised on exploiting the unchoreographed racket all around him. Pujols, unremarkably, has erected a first-ballot caliber monolith with pure hitting stats straight out of the fifties. Battier, at least according to the NY Times Magazine and Michael Lewis, was the first Horseman of a new way of thinking about basketball. Moneyball had Billy Beane; when Michael Lewis decided to project that same story out onto basketball, Daryl Morey got some shine, but mostly, it was Battier who was cast as prophetic. Incidentally, there has never been another Battier, really, even if Morey has discovered other unlikely impact players like Chuck Hayes.
A man of law and rectitude, having shot down all the varmints and claimed the girl for his bride, must ride off into the sunset. These are baseball's rules of the individual who, in his most revealing moments, is a loner. Basketball players can't avoid others even when they want to, and not in the "fuck this traffic!" kind of way we see in football. Team is like family, good and bad; the Heat are one of the sport's boldest experiments in not only on-court strategy—LeBron and Wade either play off of each marvelously, or collide headlong into each other's Green Zone of superstar comfort—but also in how we perceive ego. Pujols can move on with honor. The baseball star is portable, a contract in the truest sense. James and Wade are millionaire roommates. We will judge them by their ability to say good night and put away each others' laundry.
That's why Battier works so well in Miami: Without this turning into a referendum on Battier's abilities, and what Lewis may or may not have done for them, he's a tincture. The addition of Battier says "team is good and even." He won't lead, or fix things. Shane Battier has made a career not out of cleaning up after others, but rejecting the idea that team is an either/or, execute-or-perish venture. It's organic, which brings opportunities for closeness (or success) and leads to dissonance (or failure). Shane Battier may not automatically soothe the Heat, but, for sure, throwing him onto that roster of perceived divas will be a welcome reminder to us schlubs who spend so much time dissecting them.
Eddy Curry? Comic relief and inspirational cuddles. For us, not them.