To no one’s surprise, the St. Louis Cardinals are in contention for yet another National League Central Division title. That puts them in position to make another run at a World Series. That’s something the franchise is very accustomed to. But one thing that has been surprising has been the play of aging veteran Albert Pujols.
Pujols is in his 22nd major league season and is at least 42 years old. I say ‘at least’ because some people inside baseball circles do not believe anyone truly knows how old Pujols is. Players’ ages coming from the Dominican Republic in the early 20th century were known to be fudged a number of times. Nevertheless, the Cardinals slugger is at least 42 years old. Yet, he is having a very solid year, helping fill out the Cardinals lineup.
He has 19 home runs this season and is hitting a very respectable .261. The new rule that allows the designated hitter in the National League has allowed this.
‘Winnie the Pujols’ as I often call him because he is like a soft, cuddly bear, is obviously a first ballot Hall of Fame player. But he deserves more recognition than that. Here are the two reasons why Albert Pujols is one of the most underrated players in the history of baseball.
Pujols, alongside Aaron Judge, is on a historic chase. He is sitting on 698 career home runs. Only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth have ever hit more than 700 during their career. We all know though that Bonds’ total is at least somewhat tainted. Yeah, I’m one of those guys that holds steroid use against a player. I don’t care about the argument that we don’t know who did and who didn’t use during the steroid era. We know for a certainty that Bonds took the ‘cream and the clear’ which he admitted to.
Meanwhile, there has never been a single whisper about Pujols using performance enhancing drugs. Almost all of the power hitters from the early 2000’s were linked. Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, even David Ortiz, all failed a test at one point or other. Not Pujols. So, until I hear a reason why he should be lumped in with those characters, I refuse to do so. But I digress.
Pujols won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2001 and went on to have one of the greatest starts to a career this side of Jimmie Foxx. Foxx had 500 home runs by age 32 before injuries derailed the rest of his career. Pujols had 450 by that age, second most ever.
He is an 11-time All-Star and three-time league MVP. That’s tied with a laundry list of legends for the second most in the history of baseball. He has won four Silver Slugger Awards, tied for the most ever. Pujols led the league in runs scored five times, led the league in total bases four times, led slugging and OBP three times each.
Historically, he’s fourth in home runs, 10th in hits, third in RBI’s, second in total bases and fifth in doubles.
There are THREE players in MLB history with 2,200 RBI.
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) September 15, 2022
But he wasn’t just a power hitter. Pujols hit between .312 and .357 each of his first 10 years in the majors. Most of those seasons were above .330. That’s insane. An argument can be made that until he left the Cardinals for the Angels in 2012, Pujols had the greatest first 10 years in MLB history.
But he wasn’t just an offensive machine either. Pujols also won the Gold Glove Award in 2006 and 2010 at first base. Until age began to catch up with him, he was one of the best defensive first baseman in the game.
For #STLCards star Albert Pujols, being known as “The Machine” is more than just a nickname. It speaks to his photographic memory when it comes to some of the milestone moments in his career. Take a stroll down homer history via Pujols’ personal memories: https://t.co/sCwyktQbwr
— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) September 23, 2022
When ranking players in professional sports, winning matters more in some sports than others. In football, it seems to be extremely important. Whereas, in baseball, a player like Mike Trout will practically never even make the playoffs but if you have eyeballs, you know he’s one of the best players to ever play the game.
But in this case, you have a player that is one of the greatest who did shine on the biggest of stages. Pujols made the playoffs nine times in his career. During the postseason, Albert Pujols has a .321 batting average with 95 hits, 19 home runs, 54 RBIs and 57 runs scored in 86 games in the postseason in his career.
He helped propel the St. Louis Cardinals to two World Series titles. In 2006 and in 2011 the Cards won it all, with Pujols being the main reason why.
The 2006 team has practically no business winning. They finished the regular season 83-81 but Pujols went on a mission that postseason and St. Louis shocked the baseball world. In 2011, they were simply a great baseball team led by Pujols. He also led the Cardinals to the World Series in 2004 but they ran into the buzzsaw that was the Boston Red Sox and the team that broke the curse.
Over the last few weeks, the Cardinals offense has fallen flat. Both Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt have gone cold. The only player keeping a pulse in the lineup, you guessed it, 42-year-old Albert Pujols.
When your teammates speak highly of you
What Albert Pujols is doing is astonishing and he's been extra clutch for the @Cardinals
— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) September 19, 2022
It will be a little unfortunate if Pujols falls just shy of 700 career home runs. He has already announced he is retiring at season’s end. Then again, 700 is an arbitrary number if you really think about it. There is no denying that he is not only one of the greatest right-handed hitters in history, but one of the greatest players.