Albert Pujols’ lifetime numbers are utterly staggering. He has 667 home runs, that’s more than Willie Mays. 3,253 hits, more than all but 14 players, more than hitting machines like Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn and George Brett. More than some guy named Napoleon Lajoie, who played 120 fucking years ago and was so good that teams and leagues nearly went to war over him. He hit .426 and the Cleveland baseball club was later named the Naps after him.
Pujols’ number of RBIs? 2,112, which is more than the legendary heroes of the game like Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial as well as the legendary cheaters like A-Rod and Barry Bonds, and it’s also the name of a Rush album.
The craziest part is that Albert Pujols put all these insane numbers up and it all feels so underwhelming. He didn’t limp to the finish line, he was a desiccated monster from The Walking Dead. Which is ironic because walking is something he stopped doing roughly in 2011, when he left the St. Louis Cardinals to sign a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels.
Now in the final year of his contract, it looks like Pujols’ time with the Angels is at an end, according to MLB’s Mark Feinsand.
When Pujols left St. Louis, he seemed poised to break all the records. He had a chance to be Hank Aaron or Stan Musial or Lou Gehrig. He was 31, with 445 home runs, two World Series titles, 3 MVPs and a .328 lifetime average.
Now? His average is .298. To put that in perspective, there’s never been a player who was so far over .300 so deep in his career who ended up below .300, as Bill James expressed back in March.
Maybe it’s not fair to judge Pujols by what he didn’t do, when he ended up doing so, so much. But the memory of him as the most-feared hitter in the National League, a guy who did it every single year, including his ridiculously good rookie season in 2001, has faded. His MVP years were amazing but he had other years just as good, but didn’t win, thanks to being in the same league as Bonds when he was at his break-the-bank, video game stats best.
Let’s remember him as that guy in St. Louis, when he was an offensive terror and a fine fielder, and not the guy hobbling around with injuries and diminished skills in L.A.. Father Time remains undefeated, but Pujols will still be immortal.