Albert Pujols made history in style Saturday night by punishing a 1-2 hanging changeup, with the bases loaded, off Minnesota’s Ervin Santana for a grand slam and his 600th career home run. He also admired it by walking about half the baseline in typical Pujols fashion, and I loved every second of it. This guy is such a legend that he could have walked around the bases and I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. Whenever someone gets a monster deal like Pujols did, people get polarized by the dollar figure (10 years $240 million from the Los Angeles Angels for Albert) and forget why they deserved it in the first place. You can’t fault someone for securing their future financially like he chose to. After a brief grieving period, even St. Louis fans understood why he had to leave. Since he signed this monster deal, people forget how dominant this guy was in a Cardinal uniform. Are people jealous that he’s making a ton of money? Who deserves it more than this guy?
Pujols was an instant star when he broke into the big leagues in 2001. As the Rookie of the Year, he hit .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBI. Almost any professional ballplayer would kill to have just one year like that. Pujols did it instantly. This was the beginning of one of the most impressive streaks in MLB history, where he hit over .300 with 30 or more homers and 100 or more RBI in 10 consecutive seasons. It would have been 11 seasons in a row, but he fell just short with a batting average of .299 and 99 RBI in 2011. Along with consistently producing an incredibly high average and insane power numbers, he was one of the hardest players to strike out in MLB history, while he was a Cardinal. During his tenure in St. Louis, he had an average strike out rate of 9.5%, which is defined as “Excellent” (because it is under 10%) according to Fangraphs.com. To put that in perspective, I compared this rate to Anthony Rizzo, because he is known for being able to shorten up and make some contact with two strikes. Rizzo’s lowest strikeout rate of his career (so far) was 15% in 2015, which falls between “Great” and “Above Average” according to Fangraphs.com. Albert’s average strike out rate from 2001-2011 demolishes that number. He also only had one season (in a Cardinal uniform) where he struck out more times than he walked, and that was his rookie year. Even more impressive than that, in 2006, he only had one less home run than strike outs (49 to 50). That is just flat out incredible. There are also a few other notes on the St. Louis Cardinals’ Pujols that caught my eye as well:
- 9-time all-star (Also has an additional all-star game appearance for the Angels)
- 3-time MVP (Unanimous MVP in 2009; 4- time MVP runner up)
- 2 World Series Championships
- 6-time league leader in positional WAR (2005-2010)
- 4-time league leader in total bases (active leader)
- 3-time league leader in OPS (over 1.000 OPS 8 times)
- 5-time league leader in runs scored
- 3-time league leader in Slugging Pct (active leader)
- 2 Gold Gloves
He hasn’t exactly been a slouch in an Angels’ uniform either, contrary to popular belief. After reading an SI.com article written by one my favorite baseball minds in the game, Tom Verducci, I noticed many points that people need to realize about Pujols’s career in an Angel’s uniform.
“By fixating money and memes, we miss the hitting brilliance of Pujols. Over the past three seasons, for instance, Pujols has hit 99 home runs and driven in 319 runs. Only four other sluggers in baseball were that productive: Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and David Ortiz. In baseball history, only three other players have matched Pujols’s home run and RBI totals in their age 34-36 seasons without a connection to steroids: Babe Ruth, Johnny Mize and Andres Galarraga.”
So, yeah, that’s pretty good. In Pujols’s first 88 bats in 2012 (first season with Los Angeles), he only got 19 hits. Because people have absolutely no patience, many wrote him off as a bust because of his price tag. It’s like these haters forgot that he went on a tear and finished the season with a batting average of .285 with 30 home runs and 105 RBI. He ended up having a great first year and people weren’t willing to admit they were wrong. The next year, he only played 99 games due to nagging heal issues, so whoever wasn’t already done with him, were now. The two seasons after that, he combined for 68 home runs and 200 RBI. He also made the all-star team in 2015.
I guess my question is, “Why aren’t we talking about his accomplishments more?” How come MLB Network is the only network giving Albert any love? Is it the money? How about the fact that much of this money goes towards his foundation “The Pujols Family Foundation?” This foundation helps improve the lives of children with Down syndrome here in the United States and helps impoverished families in the Dominican Republic. This man is an incredibly humble and helpful human being who just happens to be one of the best hitters of all time. He is 100 home runs away from 700, 141 RBI from 2,000 and 124 hits away from 3,000. He will inevitably get the RBI and the hits for those tremendous accomplishments, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will get 700 home runs. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a run at Barry Bonds’s 762 home runs. If he can get to 700 homers, 2,000 RBI and 3,000 hits, he and Hank Aaron will be the only players of all time to do so. Currently, he has the second highest career average as a member of the 600 home run club at .308, behind only Babe Ruth. I learned a long time ago not to doubt this guy. PUT SOME #RESPECK ON HIS NAME, PEOPLE.