First there was The Man, years later there was El Hombre. Albert Pujols, the 402nd pick in the 1999 MLB draft, recently announced that 2021 would indeed be his last year as a player.
A Los Angeles Angel for the last 9 years, Pujols played in St. Louis from 2001-2011 winning the Rookie of the Year, 6 Silver Sluggers, 2 Gold Gloves, 3 MVP’s, 7 other Top 5 MVP finishes, and ultimately 2 World Championships in 2006 and 2011. Pujols, arguably the best player of the 2000’s, spent his best years playing at the corner of Clark and Broadway in downtown St. Louis.
Pujols, who gave the Cardinals so much, ultimately turned into Michael Wacha & Stephen Piscotty. The Cardinals received two compensatory picks when he departed for the bigger stage of Los Angeles on December 8th 2011, just months after the Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers in the epic 7 game World Series
It’s going to be tough to see Pujols come up short of some major milestones that we assumed he’d achieve after watching his amazing start to his career in St. Louis. Albert needs 38 more homeruns to reach 700, however Pujols has only hit 38 or more home runs once (he hit 40 in 2015) since 2011. Pujols, a career .328 hitter in St. Louis has been below league average since he left. Albert has turned in a .257 average since 2012, which has brought his career batting average down to .299. It’s unfathomable for a guy that hit well over .300 every year, until his last year in St. Louis when he hit .299, to not be a career .300 hitter. Pujols did reach 3000 hits back in May of 2018, one benchmark stat that can’t be taken away from him. One statistic that Albert won’t have to worry about being caught – double plays grounded into – which Pujols has a MLB record of 399, a record that might not ever be broken.
Once Pujols retires after the 2021 season, it won’t necessarily be a coming home party for Albert. When Pujols signed with the Angels, his contract included a personal services contract that pays a cool 10 million dollars over 10 years once he retires as an active player. One of the best to ever play for the Cardinals hopefully will return to his roost, however don’t expect that until sometime in the early 2030’s. When you look back at Pujols career in St. Louis, he was certainly one of the best to ever play for the 11 time World Champions. However, it’s up for debate whether it’s a shame or blessing that he didn’t get to finish his career under The Gateway Arch.
(Photo Credit: Mark Walsh)