St. Louis Cardinals: Why Albert Pujols doesn’t need 700 home runs
By Greg Simons
A St. Louis Cardinals legend is retiring at the end of the 2022 season. How he finishes his career is less important than the overall career he’s had.
Do you remember where you were on April 5, 2010? Probably not, but long-time Cardinals fans may recall that was Opening Day that season, a road game in Cincinnati. To celebrate the new season, Albert Pujols went 4-for-5 with two home runs, three RBI, and four runs scored, and excellent way to start the campaign.
What that performance also meant was Pujols officially had appeared in his 10th major league season, which unofficially meant he had become a Hall of Famer. Because let’s be serious, if Pujols had stopped playing after that game, he would have been voted into Cooperstown a few short years down the road.
Through his first nine seasons and one game, Pujols batted .334 with 368 homers, 1115 RBI, and 1075 runs scored. His average season was a .334 batting average with 41 HR, 124 RBI, and 119 runs. He also had won a Rookie of the Year award, three MVPs, finished second four other times, four during his rookie year, and a disappointing (wink, wink) ninth in 2007 when failed to reach 100 runs scored for the only time to date, finishing with just 99 runs.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. When that 10th season was complete, Pujols’ totals were a .331 BA, 408 long balls, 1230 RBI, and 1186 runs. He finished second in MVP voting once again, made his ninth All-Star team, and also won his sixth Silver Slugger and second Gold Glove.
All that happened the next year was St. Louis winning the World Series, with Pujols finishing fifth in MVP voting coming off a .299/37/99/105 campaign, his first time ever batting below .300 and failing to reach the century mark in RBI.
Of course, then the next decade happened, with Pujols reaching 3,000 hits, 500 and then 600 home runs, and climbing to third in career RBI while playing for the Los Angeles Angels. A shadow of his former towering self, Pujols spent all of those seasons playing with MLB’s newest best player, Mike Trout, but they made just one playoff appearance together, a three-game sweep at the hand of the Kansas City Royals in 2014.
After a resurgence in last year’s second half with LA’s other team, the Dodgers, Pujols came home to St. Louis and announced his 2022 reunion with the Cardinals would also be a farewell tour, a stance he is sticking to no matter where he finishes on the all-time home run list.
Before touching on that homer total, let’s remember that Pujols is now 10th all time in hits and 2nd all time to only Hank Aaron in total bases. (As a further aside, the gap in total bases between Aaron and Pujols equates to nearly 11.8 miles!! Hammerin’ Hank was amazing!)
Back to the subject at hand, as of this writing Pujols has 696 home runs. This puts him:
– tied with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the all-time list
– one away from sole possession of fourth place
– four away from that nice, round number of 700, a total achieved by only three players: Barry Bonds, Aaron, and Babe Ruth
Where will Pujols finish? Will he reach that third milestone? We simply won’t know until either he gets there or the season concludes. Regardless, the body of work Pujols has assembled makes that seven-century tally nearly irrelevant. It is abundantly clear his accomplishments can never be captured with a single number.
That’s not to take away from the association some players have with certain numbers – 755, 714, 56, .406, etc. – but the fact is, one particular number isn’t required to identify greatness. Albert Pujols is, quite simply, one of the very best baseball players in history. His final home run total will be just a part of Pujols’ fantastic story.