In the world of major league baseball, a common refrain is, “What have you done for me lately?” In the case of Albert Pujols, this doesn’t apply, given that no player in the modern era has accomplished more during his first nine seasons.
The career numbers are astounding, and it may even appear that the St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman is playing against boys.
With 358 home runs, Pujols is 12th among active players, and his 1,082 runs batted in, rank 21st among active players. In no season has he failed to drive in 100 runs.
Pujols averages 94 walks, 198 hits, 43 homers, 124 runs, and 129 RBIs. He has a .426 lifetime on-base percentage, and a .627 slugging percentage.
Most sluggers don’t hit for a high average, but Pujols owns a .333 career batting average. Only once has Pujols failed to cross the plate 100 times, and entering last Sunday’s game in San Diego, has scored 96 runs, which leads the National League.
Pujols said homers are an accident, and not something he tries for. By spraying the ball to all fields, and then lifting it, the ball carries, and with 215 pounds behind the swing, the ball will travel far.
St. Louis is surging and comfortably ahead of slumping Chicago in the NL Central. The Cubs dropped three of four games to the host Dodgers.
In a career that’s been unmatched, Pujols may be having his grandest season. Entering Sunday’s encounter, Pujols was first in homers (39), total bases (286), on-base percentage (.439), slugging percentage (.661), second in RBIs (105), third in walks (92), and sixth in average (.316).
Now that Barry Bonds isn’t playing, Pujols is easily the most-feared hitter, but says his top priority is faith, followed by family, and then baseball.
Pujols sees the big picture. “People sometimes ask me, ‘What’s your job?’ Everybody thinks that it’s playing baseball, but that’s not my job, that’s the platform God has given me,’’ he said. “My job is to be obedient to Him and do the things that He wants me to do for His will, not for Albert Pujols.”
St. Louis was the site for this year’s All-Star Game, and aside from Hall of Fame outfielder Stan Musial, Pujols is the second-most beloved player in St. Louis history. That’s a mouthful, considering that Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Dizzy Dean, Johnny Mize, Frankie Frisch, Lou Brock, Joe Medwick, and Ozzie Smith, all wore the Red Bird uniform.
In 2005, Albert and his wife Deidre started the Pujols Family Foundation, and have been active in helping people affected by Down Syndrome. Pujols also spends time assisting those less fortunate in his native Dominican Republic.
St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa had a dilemma facing him during spring training in 2001, and that was where to play Pujols. The lineup seemed set, but a hamstring injury to reserve Bobby Bonilla opened the door for Pujols, who was expected to be a pinch-hitter, and sometime starter. On Opening Day, Pujols was in the lineup, and has been a fixture ever since.
A two-time NL Most Valuable Player, Pujols has paced the Cards to two World Series, and one win in 2006. The goal is the same, and Pujols hopes to make even more noise than he has so far.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org