Cardinals: Why Albert Pujols hit his 700th home run at inopportune time

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Albert Pujols (5) celebrates after hitting a three run home run and the 700th of his career against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Albert Pujols (5) celebrates after hitting a three run home run and the 700th of his career against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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St. Louis Cardinals legend Albert Pujols hit home run number 700 of his career on Friday night, but it could have been so much better.

Baseball is a beautiful sport. Games such as Albert Pujols’ first return to St. Louis when playing for the Los Angeles Angels was one of the best moments I can remember as a baseball fan. Unfortunately, baseball can’t always provide the most optimal feel-good scenarios for fans, and that was the case with Albert Pujols’ 700th home run.

Pujols smacked his 699th and 700th home runs at Dodger Stadium. It’s disappointing that the milestone dinger wasn’t in St. Louis in front of more than 40,000 roaring home fans, but the fact that the television broadcast was on Apple TV+ instead of Bally Sports Midwest with the familiar voice of Dan McLaughlin behind the microphone is heartbreaking.

Pujols had been sitting on 698 home runs since Sept. 16, and the Cardinals had been in a historically bad offensive funk, going 47 innings without scoring an earned run, one inning short of the record. The streak finally abated on Thursday when Lars Nootbaar hit a solo home run in a 5-4 victory against the San Diego Padres, and you could almost feel the Cardinals finally getting some of their mojo back.

Before that game, Pujols was one of the few players on the team who wasn’t in a massive slump, and since after the series in Los Angeles, the Cardinals will be in Milwaukee, it didn’t look all too likely that Pujols would hit his 700th in St. Louis. I had mostly accepted that. The ovation after he hit it was impressive enough for a visiting stadium, likely aided a bit by Pujols finishing last season playing for the Dodgers. The curtain call felt perfunctory, and the celebration among his teammates was subdued.

What I didn’t count on was Pujols going off in the one game of the series that my beloved Cardinals broadcast crew wasn’t covering. Nothing against the fine broadcasters on Apple TV+, but there’s no way they could begin to feel the jubilation that number 700 would have elicited from a St. Louis-area native who has been calling Cardinals games since 2000. McLaughlin was on the call during Pujols’ entire career as a Cardinal, and it feels like nothing short of robbery that he was denied this moment.

It’s great to see Pujols reach this number, and he could be even more productive now that this weight has been lifted off of his shoulders. But it would have been so much more satisfying if The Machine could have been just a bit less efficient in that game.

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