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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Albert Pujols: Legend

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Albert Pujols has been the epitome of the dominant slugger. There is no one over the past twenty year that has played the game with more class, integrity, and ability than Pujols. There is no denying that he has not been anything close to the same player that he was from 2001-2011 with the St. Louis Cardinals, but his career will be remembered as nothing short of remarkable. He currently boasts a career .304 batting average, but he has never hit above .300 in an Angels uniform. A shrine in Cooperstown will be waiting for him five years after he retires, and the Dominican superstar deserves nothing less.

The myth of Albert Pujols began in 2001 when he hit .329 with 47 doubles and 37 home runs. Not only that, but Albert also won the National League Rookie of the Year and was fourth in the voting for Most Valuable Player. In that same year, Ichiro became only the second player to win the American League MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season (Fred Lynn). Looking back on that year, it is remarkable to think that Albert did not play a consistent position for the year. He did not even become the everyday first basemen in St. Louis until the 2004 season because of Tino Martinez and Mark McGwire. Something else to look at with Pujols: he only finished lower than fifth in MVP voting one time in his first eleven seasons in the MLB.

If the first part of this article did not emphasize this enough, Albert had built his Hall of Fame resume before he ever stepped foot in Anaheim. Through his time in St. Louis, Pujols had made nine All-Star games. He also had accumulated three MVP awards, six Silver Sluggers, two Gold Glove awards, and the Rookie of the Year. He had never hit under .299 in St. Louis, and his lowest career on-base percentage was .366 in 2011, his last year in St. Louis (prior to that is was .394 in 2002). Albert had an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) over 1.000 in eight of his first ten seasons in the MLB. To put that into perspective, only five players in all of baseball had an OPS over 1.000 in the 2017 season. Pujols was known as “The Machine” for a reason. There was no better mark of consistency over the course of the decade of the 2000s than him.

Now it is time to talk about his power. Albert is currently seventh in MLB history in home runs. It is a near certainty that he will pass the immortal Ken Griffey Jr. before the end of 2018, but this is where the consistency part comes back into play. Before the 2014 season, Pujols never had less than 30 home runs in a full season. He sits at 620 career home runs, and it is difficult, but not completely out of the realm of possibility that he could reach 700 home runs before the end of his career if he finished his contract out in Anaheim. He also currently sits as ninth all time in RBIs, and he has never finished with less than 95 RBIs in a full season in the MLB. He has had over 100 RBIs in 14 of his 16 seasons. He has been remarkable.

So, congratulations to the legend on achieving another milestone in a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. It has been incredible to watch, and baseball will not be the same after he decides to hang it up.

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