Will Albert Pujols become only the fourth player to hit 700 homers?
By David Rice
If you have not been paying attention to Angels baseball as of late Albert Pujols is moving closer to some elite company in the all-time home runs list.
Next up for Albert Pujols is the “Say Hey Kid” A.K.A. Willie Mays. After home ring on Sunday Pujols is sitting at 656 home runs with 12 games remaining. If Albert Kees swing the hot bat he could tie Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time home run list with 660 jacks.
I remember as a kid looking at this very same list and never imagining anyone would catch Willie Mays in my lifetime. At the time he was third on the list behind Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. I watched my fair share of great home run hitters growing up Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, and Eddie Murray were all in their heyday in the late 70’s through the mid 80’s when I was cutting my teeth in baseball knowledge.
I thought no way would I ever see anyone even hit their 600th home run in my lifetime. Boy was I wrong. In the past 15 years there have been five players that have passed the 600 home run plateau including Albert Pujols. There have been six more who passed the 500 home run plateau in that span as well. Baseball’s 500 home run club has almost doubled in size growing from 16 in 1999 to 27 in 2019.
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The 600 homer club has tripled in the past 15 years as there was only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays in that group in 2002, but since then six players have joined that elite list, including Barry Bonds who is the all-time leader with 762 home runs and Alex Rodriguez who is now fourth on the list with 696 homers.
Unfortunately for baseball three of those six names that were added to the 600 home run club have been tainted by alleged steroid use. Barry Bonds (762), A-Rod (696), and Sammy Sosa (609) have all had their legacies questioned because of steroids. They are three of the six players in the 500 home run club that have been kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame because of their link to steroids, with Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, and Mark McGwire being the others.
Jim Thome, Ken Griffey Jr., and Albert Pujols have not been thrown into the steroid spotlight and hopefully will never be. What is even more amazing to me about Pujols is that he reached 600 homers in only his 16th season which is a major league record. The only player in the 600 home run club other than Albert Pujols who has played less than 20 seasons is Ken Griffey Jr. who took 18 seasons to amass 630 home runs.
So Albert Pujols is in some elite company. Is it realistic to think that he can reach 700 home runs in the last two years of his contract with the Angels? Very much so. Even if Albert hits no more home runs this season he is 44 dingers away which would mean he has to average 22 bombs over the next two seasons. In all but two years of his career Pujols (both injury shortened seasons) Pujols has hit at least 23 homers every season. If he hits two more this season Pujols will reach the 25-homer mark for the 16th time in 19 seasons. So 44 in two seasons is very doable if Pujols stays healthy for the most part.
Now If you want to dream a little bigger 15 more homers from there would allow Albert to pass Babe Ruth (714 HRs) which would be an amazing accomplishment. This number is also very much in reach for “The Machine” as he is 59 home runs away from doing this. If Pujols hits say three home runs more this year he will need to average 28 homers over the next two seasons to reach that mark.
In his 19-year career he has only had four seasons where he has hit less than 28 homers with two of them being injury-plagued seasons. So Babe Ruth’s 714 home run mark is very much within reach for Pujols.
Now if you really want to dream big Albert Pujols is only 107 homers away from breaking Barry Bonds all-time mark. In the seasons left on Pujols’ contract this would not be realistic at all. However if Pujols were to play two more seasons for the Angels (not saying I’m suggesting this especially not for a big contract), but just say the Angels still want Albert’s presence around, 107HRs would be possible. Believe me, I would much rather see Albert’s name at the top of the home run list than Barry Bonds. I believe this is only a pipe dream, but you never know.
Say if Albert has a resurgence and hits 35 homers in each of the next three seasons plus maybe two more this season, he would pass Bonds. That would still involve the Angels re-signing him for an extra year. But if he could be that productive in the next two seasons, the Angels might be inclined to do so.
Back to reality, I am hoping that Pujols could stay relatively healthy and productive over the next two seasons and pass Babe Ruth and move into third place all-time. I could live with that and if I could be there when he hits #700 like I was for #600 it definitely would be special.
Angel fans, despite his shortcomings over the past eight seasons, you are still watching one of the greatest hitters to play the game. The icing on the cake is that he is a good guy as well. Pujols does so much for charities including his Albert Pujols Foundation which helps kids with Down Syndrome. I have also observed Pujols firsthand taking time to meet with sick kids and improvised kids who by meeting him it means the world to them. Pujols is always very personable to each kid or with anyone he meets who is much less-fortunate than him.
The last time I was in the dugout to do some interviews, I briefly spoke to Albert Pujols and thanked him for all that he does for others, especially kids and for being a good role model in addition to being a great player. He paused and it looked like he had a tear in his eye and he said to me “Thank you it means a lot to me to hear someone say that,” Pujols said.
Good luck on your pursuit of 700 and hopefully at least one more World Series appearance.