It almost feels like the negative vitriol that surrounded Major League Baseball and its labor issues have dissipated into an air of forgetfulness and forgiveness. A season that has brought us old-school lore with the chasing of historical numbers by way of Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, and the likes of a modern-day Babe Ruth, in another dominant season by Shohei Ohtani, would ultimately do that. Sprinkle in some amazing rookies on the rise, and all of sudden it's, what did I say about baseball's treatment of fans?
It's been some season...
In this post, I want to focus on Albert Pujols...the "King", the "Machine", one of the greatest ever. After hitting a historic 700th Home Run (by the way, I definitely predicted that back in March - just humble-bragging a bit), I wanted to drop five (fitting, yeah?) thoughts on Albert Pujols:
- GREATEST EVER?! - Pujols' career often feels like the Angels' years were some sort of nightmare or a bad edition in a franchise film series that we've all agreed to acknowledge comprehensively, but, ignore individual contribution. It's the weirdest kind of dichotomy I've ever experienced in sports. The thought of Pujols, the Angel, still feels, well, weird, even after 10 years of it. But I think those years cloud our heightening of Pujols in the GOAT argument. After all, with 700 home runs, 3000+ hits, and 2000+ RBIs among other super nerdy analytical arguments, it's only he and Hank Aaron that sit in this extremely rarified air of the game's history. And even at 42, just from the eye test on homerun 699 and 700, there is a HIGH-level of hitting mastery on display. Soooo, for reals, for reals - is Pujols the greatest hitter of all time? I honestly haven't been able to completely dismiss that thought reasonably.
- CARDINAL GLORY - This thought touches on those weird 10 years in Anahe...Los Angeles with the Angels. Even that one year in Dodger Blue which has all sorts of sacrilegious imagery - Pujols in...blue?! Pujols in Cardinal Red, with that bat and birds going across his chest...there's just magic there. Just, magic. It's the only time where, as a fan, things just felt right for Pujols.
- LONGEVITY - This adds to thought #1, however, I also think we've lost sight of the longevity of Pujol's career - he's playing at 42! In an analytically driven world, post-thirty is scoffed at, and post-forty is a bigger red flag than a PED suspension. Pujols has found ways to stay in the league with productivity well into an age forty-two season done by only a handful of athletes in their sport and with the kind of grace known by other athletic legends and marvels such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If Pujols wanted to return for an age 43 season, I'm confident someone (probably the Cardinals) would take a flyer on him. He's been that productive.
- CLASSY GUY - Unfortunately, there are always going to be skeptics, because that's the world we live in. Due to experience, and yes, the world of "hot takes", skepticism, portrayals, and misdirections that we see flooding the sports world on a daily basis, the same rings true with PED speculation for Pujols. However, he's never failed a test. And nothing has been tied to him - at least at the time of this writing (gotta cover myself). What he has been, is super generous and the utmost classiest of ambassadors for the game, specifically for Dominicans. And if there is anything that says everything there is about Pujols, here are his comments regarding the 700th ball: "Souvenirs are for the fans. I don't have any problem if they want to keep it. If they want to give it back, that's great. But at the end of the day, I don't focus on material stuff." Just top guy kind of stuff there. This has been the ultimate swan song for his final year.
- MEMORIES - My favorite memories of Pujols are a co-placeholder in my mind starting with that absolute moonshot of a homerun he hit off of Brad Lidge in Game 3 of the 2005 NLCS in Houston. That ball went somewhere over the train tracks, likely exiting the stadium. The other is his three-homerun performance against the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series. That was some Reggie Jackson, Mr.October-level performance.