Albert Pujols is back with the Cardinals, and he’ll wrap up his career where it began. Speaking to reporters (including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) at a press conference announcing his return to St. Louis, Pujols confirmed he’s planning to retire after the upcoming season. “This is it for me. This is my last run,” he told the group.
Pujols is headed into the 22nd season of a Hall of Fame career. He has spent a bit more than half that in Cardinal red, breaking into the big leagues with a Rookie of the Year-winning 2001 campaign. The slugging first baseman finished fourth in NL MVP voting his debut season, and he’d remain among the top five finishers in that balloting for all but one season of his St. Louis career (a 2007 campaign in which he finished ninth).
During that run, Pujol claimed the MVP award on three separate occasions. He led MLB in OPS+ in four of the five seasons between 2006-10, claiming the Silver Slugger Award in each of the latter three years. Pujols went to the Midsummer Classic in nine of his first 11 seasons with the Cards and helped the club to a pair of World Series championships. Over his time in St. Louis, he posted an incredible .328/.420/.617 slash, averaging more than 40 home runs per season.
Of course, the second half of Pujols’ career wasn’t close to the otherworldly heights he reached during that time. Pujols posted above-average offensive numbers for each of his first five seasons in Orange County after signing a ten-year pact with the Angels during the 2011-12 offseason. He only put up excellent numbers during his first season with the Halos (.285/.343/.516 with 30 homers) as his batting average and on-base numbers sharply declined, although Pujols twice more eclipsed 30 longballs in Anaheim.
As his production continued to wane towards the end of that deal, the Angels released Pujols last May. He landed with the Dodgers and served as a righty platoon/bench bat before hitting the open market again this winter. In a full-circle moment, the 42-year-old agreed to head back to St. Louis for one final run last night.
Pujols has already racked up a laundry list of career accomplishments. His name dots the all-time leaderboards in most major categories. He’s 12th all-time with 3,301 hits, and he’s just 18 knocks away from supplanting Paul Molitor in the top ten. Barring injury, he’s sure to get there this year. It’ll be harder — but not impossible — for Pujols to set another pair of achievements in the home run department. Already 5th all-time with 679 big flies, he needs 18 more to pass Alex Rodriguez for fourth-place and 21 homers to reach the 700-mark plateau. Pujols is 64 RBI from Babe Ruth for second-place in that category, and he has a chance to leapfrog both Willie Mays (38 away) and Stan Musial (92 away) on the total bases leaderboard.
More to eat.