Legends On Deck

Albert Pujols: What A Career! But What Could Have Been

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In 1999, the St Louis Cardinals drafted Albert Pujols in the 13th round, an overall 402nd pick and after only one season in the minors, Pujols jumped to the big leagues in 2001 with a huge splash, while showcasing the power that would put him at the top of the leader boards for years to come.  Ironically the #1 pick in the 1999 MLB draft was Josh Hamilton, who has been out of the game since 2015.  Hamilton was a star player but personal issues derailed a career that could have been maybe as great as Pujols has experienced.

From his debut season in 2001 to his last season with the Cardinals in 2011, Pujols averaged 40 home runs, 120 RBIs, and had a .328 batting average through 11 seasons. He won Rookie of The Year in 2001, recorded three MVP awards in 2005, 2008, 2009 and runner-up in 2002, 2003, 2006, and 2010. He amassed three World Series crowns (2004, 2006, and 2011), and one post-season MVP in 2004.  He had nine out of 11 All Star game nods, missing out in a snub in 2002, but didn’t miss a mid-season Classic for the following eight straight seasons.

One epic game came in the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers when Pujols went 5 for 6, with four runs scored, six RBIs, which was highlighted by three home runs in a Cardinals 16-7 Game 3 blowout.

One would hope that a player with his caliber would finish his career with the same team, but after a majestic performance in the World Series, Pujols’ stock rose even higher, which sparked a bidding war for his services. The Cardinals were unable to resign their star player as he took his monster talents to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The contract was hefty at 10 years, $254 Million but the accolades and awards stopped except for a lone All Star nod in 2015. What is interesting to note is that Pujols, in the 10 seasons with the Angels, only appeared in one playoff game (2014). So even though I am highlighting the great accomplishments of the future Hall of Famer, its interesting to think and I am sure many Cardinals fans and all around baseball would want to know, what could have been if he stayed in St. Louis rather than chase the money all the way to LA. How many more rings could have been won?

After Pujols left in 2001, the Cardinals never won a World Series again, but they did finish above .500 in every season including this year and they also won their division four times, while going back to the fall classic just once in 2013, losing to the Boston Red Sox. On the other hand, the Angels finished above .500, just three times (2012, 2014 and 2015) while bowing out in three straight games in the 2014 ALDS.

So after 10 seasons with the Angels, Pujols was designated for assignment on May 6, 2021, released on May 13th and four days later, signed as a free agent by the other LA team, the defending World Series Champs, the Dodgers. Can it be that Pujols, who has missed out on the post season since 2011, may have a chance to get back and maybe even walk away from the game with another crown?

Only time will tell as the Dodgers are in third place in the NL West at 33-23, but only 1.5 games behind the surging San Francisco Giants.

But the truth is, Pujols will be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame when his career is over; he will be remembered as one of the greatest power hitters in the game, and even though St Louis Fans missed out on having him in their uniform for his entire career, they too know that greatness only comes around every now and then and what Pujols did in his short time in St Louis, is nearly unmatchable these days, but for the next generation of players, he is one to look up to and model their career after.  Hopefully the Baseball Gods will allow Pujols one last hurrah to end an amazing career.

Albert Pujols, 21 years in the game, 670 home runs as of June 3, 2021, 5th all time and only 26 behind Alex Rodriguez, who is in 4th place with 696.  The next closest active player is Miguel Cabrera at 491 (30th place). No matter if Pujols catches Arod or not, he will be etched into baseball infamy and may never be passed up on the list of HR Leaders for years to come. History unfolding right before our eyes.

 

Enjoy the ride, rest of the season is going to be epic!!

 

David Conde
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