On Tuesday night in Anaheim, Albert Pujols hit a rocket off of Bartolo Colon down the left-field line for his 599th career home run, helping lead the Los Angeles Angels to a 9-3 win over the Atlanta Braves. Pujols is now one homer away from being just the 9th person to eclipse the 600 home run mark.
Since being drafted 402nd overall in 1999 by the St. Louis Cardinals– MLB scouts and GM’s really thought there were 401 better players in that draft class–Pujols has been a model of consistency. The Santo Domingo-born natural would go on to accumulate a laundry list of accomplishments over the next 17 season: Rookie of Year, 3-time MVP (he also finished second in voting four times), 10-time All Star, 2-time World Series champion, 6-time Silver Slugger winner, 2-time Gold Glove winner, batting champion, has posted an OPS over 1.000 in 77 career postseason games…. the list goes on.
In his first 10 seasons in the MLB, the man dubbed “The Machine” hit .331/.426/.624 while averaging 41 home runs and 43 doubles a season. After coming up as a third baseman and playing left field in 2002 and 2003, he led NL first basemen in total zone runs for six straight seasons from 2004-2009. He actually led all NL players in that stat in 2007 and 2008.
Granted, after some foot injuries in recent years with the Angels, Pujols hasn’t been the same guy. However, he still managed to hit 41 and 34 home runs in the last two seasons respectively. The 37-year-old first baseman is still a solid MLB player and, even after 17 years of play ranging from all-time great to “solid,” he appears to be flying under the radar in the twilight of his career. Baseball should probably take a break from mound rushes and bat flips to appreciate a guy reaching a milestone, as Pujols will shortly become only the 3rd Latino to hit 600 dingers.
Players like Pujols are far and few between, and his numbers can go toe-to-toe with nearly anyone in baseball history; in fact, ESPN’s David Schoenfield ranks him as the greatest first baseman of all time, even higher than Lou Gehrig. He has four years remaining on his contract after this one, although there is no telling how long he will choose to play. If he plays it out, he’ll be 41-years-old and will likely end up top 5 all time in home runs, and top 10 all time in doubles and RBIs, while striking out less than he’s walked. Maybe this guy deserves some attention on the eve of the 600 Club, after all.