A Historic End to a Historic Career


After a hall-of-fame career, Albert Pujols is going out with a bang. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The great Albert Pujols came into the 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) season just 21 home runs away from a milestone that only three others on the planet have accomplished. This feat is the prestigious 700 Home Run Club, which includes Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Pujols, coming into his 22nd season at 42-years-old, had just two 20-plus home run seasons out of the last five, making the milestone reachable, but by no means a given. A magical season would have to come out of a legendary player. 

Pujols came into the league at just 21 years old, making an immediate impact for the St. Louis Cardinals in his rookie season. He hit 37 home runs, drove in 130 runs and slashed .329/.610/1.013. This remarkable season won him the Rookie of the Year award in the National League while finishing fourth in Most Valuable Player (MVP) voting and leading his team to a postseason berth. This would be the start of an illustrious career for a generational talent. 

His next 10 years in a Cardinal uniform would be just as successful, if not better. On average, Pujols would hit 41 home runs, drive in 120 runs and slash .328/.617/1.040 as a Cardinal, cementing himself as one of the greats at just 31 years old. Throughout this tenure, he would win three MVP awards, finish top five in six other seasons, make the All-Star team nine times and lead the Cardinals to two World Series championships. 

After the 2011 season, which ended in Pujols hoisting a World Series trophy, the slugger was due for a big pay day. There were many suitors for the future Hall of Famer, with the Los Angeles Angels eventually winning the sweepstakes. The Halos gave him a $254 million deal over 10 years. With this contract the Angels were hoping he would provide Hall of Fame-like seasons as he did in St. Louis and hopefully bring a World Series trophy to Anaheim. 

Pujols’ time on the Angels wasn’t what they hoped for when he signed the contract. Over the 10 years, he produced numbers far below those that he put up in St. Louis. On average, Pujols hit 23 home runs, drove in 82 and slashed a mediocre .256/.448/.758. These numbers earned him one All-Star appearance and one postseason appearance, but nothing near an MVP award. Those that started watching baseball in 2012 would have thought Pujols was just an average player, and not one of the greats as his first 11 seasons would suggest. 

With Pujols not on a roster through much of spring training this year, headlines started to circle that baseball fans may had seen his last at-bat. However, on March 28, a reunion was in the cards, with him signing a one-year contract to return to the Cardinals for his final season. After 11 years, Pujols returned to where it all began. He was back for his 22nd season, just 21 home runs away from history. Pujols would have to find some magic in order for his name to be added to an illustrious list. 

Back in St. Louis, Pujols was able to capture that magic. Having a resurgent year, Pujols came into the final month of the season just six homers away from the big 700. On Sept. 23 in Los Angeles, he did what no one saw coming heading into the season: he reached the 700 mark. In the city where he struggled to live up to his big contract, Pujols made history after he hit two home runs in one game at Dodger Stadium, adding his name to yet another piece of history and baseball immortality. Pujols and the Cardinals can only hope that this magic will carry on through October and November as they chase their 12th World Series title.