Los Angeles Angels infielder and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols has joined Willie Mays in the home run record books.
”Big Fly, number 660 for Albert Pujols. He has just now tied Willie Mays.”~ Victor Rojas
He finally did it! Albert Pujols has tied Willie Mays for fifth all-time in home runs and had everyone on the edge of their seats as it took him over a month since his last home run. In the process of tying this record, Albert also passed, Alex Rodriguez, for second all-time in RBI’s. Albert has had a storied career that deserves acknowledgment. Nobody has their names next to Willie Mays in home runs and Hank Aaron in RBIs just by luck.
Albert quite possibly is one of, if not the, greatest draft steal in MLB history. He was taken in the 13th round at pick 402 in the 1999 draft. His minor league career was as short as the Mets window to realistically contend in the 2010s, one year. In his three different levels of A ball in 2000 in the minors, he would slash .314/.378/.543 along with 19 homers and another 48 extra-base hits. The St. Louis Cardinals were not waiting around any more, as Albert Pujols would make his debut and get his first hit on the Cardinals Opening Day in 2001.
While he was expected to be a star, nobody ever can realistically predict someone to have a career as he did in St. Louis. A Cardinals fan told me recently, “best Cardinal I ever saw.” That’s high praise for such a historic franchise. In 11 seasons in St. Louis, Pujols would take home Rookie of The Year in 2001, making nine All-Star games, winning three MVPs, a handful of Silver Sluggers, a couple of Gold Gloves, and a couple more World Series titles. His worst year at the plate in St. Louis happened to be his last and he still hit .299.
Fast forward to 2012, Albert was coming off of his second World Series title and had decided to go and finish his career on the west coast, signing a 10 year and $240,000,000 contract. While Angel fans were ecstatic to get at the time, the best player in baseball, nobody expected what happened next.
Albert would slowly decline and at times, accelerate said decline. However, in 2012 he did hit .285 with 30 dingers but he just wasn’t the same. Following the season he would have knee surgery and miss time in 2013 with a tear in his foot, only playing 99 games. He would show sparks of the St. Louis Albert in Anaheim, but he would never be that guy again.
However, Albert still gave Angels fans some memorable moments. He hit his 500th and 600th home run with the club, 3000th hit, 2000 RBIs, saw him pass A-Rod for second in RBI’s and tie Mays for fifth in homers. While he wasn’t himself anymore, it still means something that he did this in an Angels uniform.
Look, it was a terrible contract in hindsight and if people want to stay mad about it forever, fine. Every team gives out bad contracts at some point and if we can’t find a silver lining in an imperfect sport where there is only one World Series Champion after 162 games and just 16 of 32 teams make the playoffs with unknown injuries, trades, tragedies, and upsets, go be a Yankees fan.
Albert Pujols is one of the greatest players of all-time and he deserves to be recognized and appreciated for passing a man of the stature of Willie Mays for doing, possibly the hardest thing in all of the sports, hitting a home run. I care too much about this game and its history to not make sure people remember how great his career has been.
So, a tip of the hat to you Albert. Thank you for the history you added to the game and doing it the right way.