If you’ve kept up with baseball since 2001, then there is one name that everyone knows; Albert Pujols. For me, as a Mets fan, I think of our loss to Pujols and the Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS before they went on to defeat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. But for the Pujols legacy, this is barely something to remember. Since his MLB debut on opening day for the Cardinals in 2001, he has been considered one of the best, earning ESPN.com’s Player of the Decade award in 2009. His time spent on the Cardinals was unmatched in terms of skill and talent. Now in his 18th season, he sits on the crest of a milestone, just one hit away from 3,000 career hits. With this feat achieved he is undoubtedly going finish his career as one of the all-time greats.
Once you take a look at his stats, it’s easy to see why he is held in such high regard. Between his rookie season, in which he won Rookie of the Year, and the end of his 2010 season, Pujols finished each season batting no less than .314 with slugging percentages under .600 in only three of those seasons. His OPS through those ten years was below 1.000 only twice. Yet these stats only scratch the surface and though he was somewhat consistent through the decade, his best season came in 2008. In 2008 Pujols finished with a slash line of .357/.462/.653, 100 runs scored, 116 RBI, and 104 walks, while only striking out 54 times through 524 at-bats. His ability and talent as a player are undeniable, and the awards he won are seemingly endless. In fact, let’s take a look at those awards.
- 10x All-Star (2001, 2003–2010, 2015)
- 2× World Series champion (2006, 2011)
- 3× NL MVP Award (2005, 2008, 2009)
- NLCS MVP Award (2004)
- NL batting champion (2003)
- 2× NL home run leader (2009, 2010)
- NL RBI leader (2010)
- 6× Silver Slugger Award (2001, 2003, 2004, 2008–2010)
- 2× Rawlings Gold Glove Award (2006, 2010)
- 2× Hank Aaron Award (2003, 2009)
- NL Rookie of the Year Award (2001)
With all of these achievements, its difficult to narrow down to his top five, but not impossible. Here are my picks for Albert Pujols Top Five Career Highlights.
3-HR Game 3 of 2011 World Series
In 2011, the St.Louis Cardinals once again found themselves in a position to win the world series, this time against the Texas Rangers. The World Series went all the way to the seventh game before the birds took the win, their first since 2006. But of all the moments remembered from that series, game three stands out. In this crushing 16-7 victory for the Cardinals, Pujols joined Baseball royalty as he hit three home runs in that game alone, becoming the third player in history to achieve that feat. The other two? Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson. On the night he had five hits, six RBI, and 14 total bases. It stands as the best night offensively ever recorded in a World Series.
2008 Regular Season
As mentioned above, Pujols’ 2008 season was one for the record books. There really isn’t much for me to say here without getting to statistical. Enjoy some highlights of his MVP season instead.
His Rookie Season
Making the move to the major league isn’t always an easy one. Countless times we’ve seen first-round picks falter and fail to live up to their hype and expectations. That can’t be said for Pujols however, as the 13th round draft pick had a season to remember.
Before the season had even started, he already had one of the biggest names in baseball backing him up. His teammate and baseball superstar Mark McGwire told manager Tony LaRussa “If you don’t put this guy on the roster for the 2001 season, it might be one of the worst moves you make in your career.” And what a mistake it would’ve been. Thankfully for the Cardinals, LaRussa listened, starting Pujols on opening day. From there, Pujols went on to finish the season with a .329/.403/.610 slash line with 130 RBI and 37 home runs. Unsurprisingly he unanimously won the Rookie of the Year award that year, only foreshadowing what was to come.
2011 World Series Championship
His first world series win in 2006 was momentous itself, but the 2011 championship run makes his second even more special. At the end of August, the Cards were down 10.5 games from a wildcard playoff spot. The Redbirds played a phenomenal September and overtook the NL Wildcard leading Braves in the last game of the season. St.Louis fought its way through the rest of the playoffs, defeating the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies and the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers to face the Texas Ranger in World Series.
Throughout the entire postseason, Pujols averaged .356/.463/.676, leading his team to a World Series win.
600 Career Home Runs
Of all of his career milestones, 3,000 hits may be his greatest, but that hasn’t happened just yet. However, in June of 2017 Pujols hit his 600th career home run, a feat achieved by only nine other players in history. He did it in style too, blasting a grand slam in the fourth inning against the Brewers. What a moonshot.