HomeSportsAlbert Pujols approaches 700 home runs and insists he’s still retiring
Albert Pujols approaches 700 home runs and insists he’s still retiring
August 21, 2022
PHOENIX — We sat for 20 minutes on Saturday afternoon and Albert Pujols insisted that he would not change his mind about his retirement after this season, however close he was to the glorious 700 home run club.
Well, it turns out it could be a moot point.
The St. Louis Cardinals icon promptly went out and hit two home runs in the Phoenix night at Chase Field — he just missed a third — as part of a 4-for-4 night passing Hall of Famer Stan Musial for the second most total bases in baseball history.
It may not be that Pujols can possibly hit 700 home runs anymore, but rather, how fast is he going to do that?
“Yes,” said Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, “he will do it.”
The way Pujols is hitting these days, with five home runs in his last five games for 692 in total, who wouldn’t agree?
He didn’t have a single homerun in June and only had six in the first half of the season, but he has hit six homeruns alone since August 10, more than the combined total of seven full teams.
Pujols, who has 13 home runs this year, is now five home runs away from overshadowing Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the all-time home run list, and eight away from 700 where only three men have ever gone: Barry Bonds (762) , Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).
Pujols, 42, suddenly looks like the same man who terrorized the National League in its first 11 years. He went 4-for-4 with two home runs and two singles in the Cardinals’ 16-7 laughter over the Arizona Diamondbacks, becoming the first player to produce four hits and two home runs at age 42 or older.
While the rest of the baseball world is feeling the effects of summer’s dog days, Pujols is suddenly amplified. He hits .438 the second half with a ridiculous .918 slugging percentage. The all-time slugging percentage record for a second half is 0.908 by Barry Bonds when he hit a record 73 home runs in 2001.
“It’s just incredible to watch him,” said Cardinals All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado. “When we got him I knew he would help us win games, but honestly I don’t know where we would go. be without him.”
Well, the Cardinals only have a few months left to find out because whatever happens for the rest of the season, Pujols insists he’s calling it a career after the Cardinals’ last game.
“I’m still retiring whether I hit 693, 696, 700 or whatever,” Pujols told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t care about numbers. If you’d told me 22 years ago that I’d be this close, I’d have told you you’re crazy. My career has been great.”
So nothing will make you change your mind?
“If I can’t hit 70 home runs, I’m not coming back,” Pujols said with a laugh. ‘No, I’ve had enough. I’m glad I made the announcement that this was it when I signed. Really, I wouldn’t change anything.”
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Pujols, who didn’t even have a job when spring training started, came very close to ruining this Hollywood story. He had three other job openings, and at least one that would pay him significantly more than the $2 million the Cardinals eventually offered, while others promised more playing time.
But when the cardinals called, the job search was over.
He packed his bags and was at the cardinals’ camp the next morning, preparing for his farewell tour.
“Of course I took a lot less money and made fewer promises,” said Pujols, “but this is where I want to be. This is where I wanted to finish my senior year, and thank goodness he left me this door open to be here.” to finish my career.”
While everyone might have thought it was just going to be a ceremonial nighttime joy ride, Pujols had other ideas.
“It was great to have the opportunity to come back to St. Louis, where everything started for me 21 years ago,” he said. “This organization believed I could help. It wasn’t just coming back to finish my senior year. to celebrate, it was knowing I can help, that means a lot to me.
“It’s pretty special to help this organization win in every way and enjoy my last path through this city.”
It was the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pujols said, who gave him new energy. He was released by the Los Angeles Angels last May in the final year of his 10-year $240 million contract. The Dodgers, even without DH in the National League last year, decided to give him a shot. Pujols became a pinch-hitter deluxe, hitting .254 with 12 homeruns in 189 at bats to lead the Dodgers into the postseason.
“I had so much respect for that organization, so much respect for the players, and was so blessed to have the opportunity to be back in the playoffs,” said Pujols. “It really got me excited to be back this year. to come and play because they gave me the joy, gave me the thrill of being back in the post season.”
Now it’s like 2011 all over again. Pujols leaves the Cardinals sitting atop the National League Central with a five game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, feeling like he’s a kid again.
He hit a 437-foot homer off veteran Madison Bumgarner in the second inning, a 429-foot homer in the fourth inning, and nearly homered again in the sixth as the ball left his bat at 109.4 mph, caroming from the left field wall.
He even tried to steal second base in the sixth inning, narrowly was thrown out and produced another single in the seventh inning.
He was a one man show.
“It feels good to tell you the truth,” Pujols said. “I really didn’t know what to do, but I know I’ve worked very hard with the gift the Lord has given me. I didn’t know what the year would look like, but what I could check was dedication and hard work.
“Through that hard work I am able to get better, stay healthy and achieve many things in this game that many players have never done before.”
Pujols, who will go down in history as one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time, can’t even keep up with his performance. Chris Conroy, the Cardinals’ assistant coach, is constantly bringing in baseballs for Pujols to sign and authenticate, with Pujols asking what just happened.
On this night, the historic feat was passing Musial, the Cardinals’ all-time great, in total (6,141) for second behind only Hank Aaron (6,856). And yes, Conroy got the baseball with the home run ball bouncing back into the field.
“It’s just crazy, every day I go to a game,” Pujols says, “they ask for a baseball. I say, ‘Okay, what’s this for?’ They say, ‘oh, you’ve equalized or passed just such-and-such.’ I’ll say, ‘What, I didn’t know that. I swear, I’m not yours, I have no idea.'”
However, he was well aware of the history of this landmark.
Musial has a huge statue at the entrance to Busch Stadium. He was Pujols’ mentor and idol when he came up with the Cardinals, and Pujols was touched, even a little emotional, that he was the one who overshadowed Stan the Man.
“Just being mentioned in the same sentence is great,” Pujols said. “What he’s done for this organization is incredible. I’m sure he’s looking down and smiling at me.”
Now there is one more magical milestone. It’s the one everyone talks about in baseball. The 700 home run club, the most prestigious fraternity in all of baseball.
“We talk about it all the time when he’s not around,” Arenado says. “I mean, 700 home runs? That’s something almost no one has seen. It would be quite special.”
While everyone else is fixated on 700, Pujols will tell you he’s more proud of a number that no one is talking about these days: He has 2,187 career RBI. The only men in history with more RBI are Aaron (2,297) and Ruth (2,214).
“That’s the song that means everything to me,” Pujols said. “That’s how you win matches. It takes four walks to get an RBI. It takes one homer to get at least one or a single.
“That’s how you win, score points. If someone comes to me and says RBIs are overrated, I’ll tell them they’re crazy.”
The dream, of course, is for Pujols to leave the game with the ultimate prize, another World Series championship. He already has two rings, with enough room for another. But whatever happens in the last six weeks, whether he hits 700 home runs, however far the Cardinals are in October, he will leave the game with an impeccable reputation and a plaque reserved for him in Cooperstown.
He played the game clean, played it well and respected the game every moment he came on the field.
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Who else would it be good for a rookie to get knocked on the mound with a right-hander, while the crowd of 34,248 loudly booed and cheered the hometown boy, Nolan Gorman, as he stepped to the plate? When Gorman delivered a single, guess who was cheering wildly on the top step of the dugout?
It was a moment Gorman will never, ever forget. He will be able to tell his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that there was a night in August, with 150 friends and relatives, when he squeezed for the great Hall of Famer.
“It was great,” said Gorman, who has a Pujols signed jersey. “All I thought about was doing this job for Albert.”
That is Pujols, the ultimate teammate, role model and ambassador.
It hurts him to see players like Fernando Tatis Jr. get caught on performance-enhancing drugs, knowing their careers are colored forever. He hopes Tatis and others suspended for PEDs can be forgiven, but knows they will never be looked at the same again.
“I don’t judge people, but it saddens me to see that I’m from the same country, the Dominican Republic, and the mistake the man made,” Pujols said. “It doesn’t make you a bad person, but you have a bad choice all it takes is a bad choice and it stinks to see that not only for them but for baseball and the people of our country.
“I’m on the radar just like everyone else, but there is a huge responsibility that you have to carry with you,” added Pujols. “That responsibility I have before God has helped me to have the success I had. I know there are a lot of people out there, a country that has followed me my whole career, and I want to make them proud.”
Mission accomplished, 700 home runs or not.
‘Whatever happens, my friend,’ says Pujols, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve had an incredible career. How blessed am I?”