It was June 2001, the first half of the first season of a career no one expected. Albert Pujols returned to Kansas City, Missouri, where two years earlier he played at a community college that had never produced a major player in the league. Now, as a rookie for the St. Louis Cardinals, he somehow hits the 0.350 with a lot of home runs. But how cool is it really?
said Chad Durbin, who That night began for the royal family, in evoking an exploratory meeting with a coach. “Jamie Quirk told me, ‘I think your stuff is going to defeat the Pujols’—and he didn’t even call him, he just said it wrong. You just don’t know much about him.”
The education was fast and compelling. Pujols escaped twice before penalizing a curve ball for Homer in the ninth inning, spoiling Durbin’s chance in his first game of his career. This was Pujols’ twentieth career in a journey that lasted more than two decades.
“This house running away from me is old enough to drink; it’s old enough to go order a beer at the bar,” said Durbin, 44, retired nine years old. Only help in the game. I did my part.”
Pujols said he will retire at the end of the season, and on Friday won his race against the finish. He hit 700 home jobs by facing off twice against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, joining the most exclusive home-run neighborhood ever. Before Pujols, only Babe Ruth (1934), Hank Aaron (1973) and Barry Bonds (2004) reached 700 people.
“It’s very special,” Pujols said after the match. “It really hits me when I’m done, at the end of the season, when I’m retired, and maybe a minute or two after that I can look at the numbers.”
Bonds finished his career with the most homeowners, 762, followed by Aaron in 755, and Ruth in 714. But Pujols, in this age of specialty and hefty bulls, have racked up more pitchers than anyone else: 455.
This total is still growing. Both visitors on Friday had two new casualties: His 434-foot shot to the left in the third inning came from Dodgers starter Andrew Heaney, and his 389-foot goal in the fourth was a long way from loyalist Phil Pickford. Neither of them had ever faced the Pujols before Friday night’s game.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Who’s the toughest hitter you’ve ever faced?’” said Glendon Roach, 47, who has abandoned three teammates to Pujols in 40 racquet careers. “I always say Albert. Especially when he was at his prime, he could do the most damage in the most different ways.”
Ruth spread his teammates across 216 different bowlers, and Aaron distributed to 310 bowlers. Both shooters retired long before interleague made their debut in 1997, midway through Bonds’ career. Bonds tied 449 different pitchers, a number the Pujols reached on August 22 against Chicago Cubs’ Drew Smiley.
“How he’s playing now,” said Smiley, “it’s definitely a different Albert Pujols than I saw when he was with the Angels.” “I didn’t get a chance to confront him when he was with the Cardinals early in his career, when he was the most dominant player there. But right now it’s like he’s that guy again.”
Pujols finishes with a boom that’s almost as improbable as his rise to the start. Playing on a part-time basis in the farewell season, his 509 slack ratio through Thursday was his highest since 2011, the final year of his first spell in St. Louis.
Pujols averaged over 40 homers per year with Cardinals from 2001 through 2011, surpassing 0.617 overall. He then left for a $240 million contract with the Angels, averaging just 23 per year with 0.448 slowdowns across a 10-year deal. The Angels released him last May, ending his 2021 season with the Dodgers.
However, while the Pujols only hit 0.256 with the Angels—compared to 328 before that—his presence has always loomed large for opposing shooters, especially with base runners. The Pujols, who tracks only Aaron and Ruth on the RBI roster, with a score of 2,208, led no fewer than 93 runs in six of his first eight seasons with the Angels.
“In his Anaheim days he obviously didn’t hit average, but I think RBIs are a big thing, and he had over 100 RBIs to stretch well,” said Mets right-hander Taiguan Walker. “He was always productive. He did his job to push the guys in, and it could be with a sack fly or a weakness in the other direction. That made it difficult.”
Walker added his name to the Pujols roster with a career number 587 in September 2016. Walker, who was at the time with the Seattle Mariners, had grabbed the Pujols for a one-stroke in 10 prior, but that wasn’t his day.
“I don’t even know if I ran out — run home, run home, run home, hit showers,” said Walker, who gave up three times in a row and only had two in the first inning. “Albert finished it for me. I think it was fastball, left center. He was really deep too. I remember they said he couldn’t get to the fastball, but he could get to it, so I was trying to hit him. I think a lot of his home runs are over.” right Now “.
That was the pitch Smiley experienced last month in the seventh inning of a goalless game at Wrigley Field: a 1-2 fastball at 93 mph, high above the outer half of the board. Pujols hit it in the first row of the left field stands for Homer #693, the only run in the game. The pitch was 4.23 feet off the ground, according to Statcast, making it the second-highest pitch shot by Homer on the top teams this season.
“At the start of the game, I threw him a curve ball down the area — and he hit that off the wall as well,” Smiley said. “I just got locked up.”
The Pujols broke another goalless tie against the Cubs on September 4 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, raising Brandon Hughes’ fastball to drive towering over the left field court in the eighth inning. Hughes, a novice, insisted that Pujols’ resume made no difference to him — “I don’t put a name on the hitter when I’m there,” he said — but he knew Pujols’ history clearly.
“I’m from Detroit, so we lost to the Cardinals,” said Hughes, who was 10 when the Pujols led St. Louis to the 2006 world title. “I say ‘we’ because I was a fan of tigers growing up.”
Pujols hit the right field off Justin Verlander in the first game of that World Series, demonstrating a trait he is known for. Among the many shooters he has beaten for the Creepers, there are some of the best shooters that have ever taken the heap.
“Jim Leland mentioned this when I was in Detroit with him: ‘Albert Pujols and these guys, they hit really, really good throws,’” Durbin said, referring to the former Tigers manager. That’s when you make mistakes, punish them. And that’s the difference between guys who have a career average of 0.280 with 350 on their land, which is a great career, and a guy like him.”
Ace shooters of the past decade often confused Pujols; Cory Klopper and Chris Seal combined to score it three times in 44 knockouts, with only one home run (from a left-hand sale in 2012).
But consider this larger group of retired superstars, a group with 23 Cy Young Award winners including: Roger Clemens, Tom Glavin, Randy Johnson, Clayton Kershaw, Greg Maddow and Johan Santana. Pujols smashed 10 homers out of them—including five from Johnson—while hitting a combined .367.
Average 367 points one better than the highest career mark in history, by Ty Cobb. So while Pujols always symbolize slowing down, remember that strength was only part of the package.
Against Clemens, Glavin, Johnson, Kershaw, Maddox and Santana, he was better than Cobb.
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