Also considered: Barry Bonds, Ichiro Suzuki, Alex Rodriguez
In the decade labelled by three letters, P.E.D., Albert Pujols (clean) stood above the rest. The former 13th round draft pick broke onto the scene in 2001 by running away with the Rookie of the Year award and finishing 4th in the NL MVP voting behind a guy that hit 73 home runs (Bonds), another that hit 64 (Sosa), and another that hit 57 and won the World Series (Luis Gonzalez). That was the last time that Pujols was going to sit that far back in the MVP voting again until 2007 (finished 9th even though he posted an 8.7 WAR).
What a decade Prince Albert had:
- Nine seasons with an average over .300
- Eight seasons with a .400+ OBP (.427 over the decade)
- Seven seasons over 1.000 OPS (1.055 over the decade)
- Nine 100+ RBI seasons
- Eight 100+ Run seasons (99 in ’07)
- Nine 30+ HR seasons
- 2001 Rookie of the Year
- Two Gold Gloves
- Six Silver Sluggers
- Eight All Star Selections
- Three-time MVP
- 2006 World Series Champion
- 73.6 WAR
- 8.2 WAR/year
(.334/.427/.628, 1,717 H, 366 HR, 1,112 RBI, 1,071 R)
*These numbers only reflect the seasons between 2000-09*
It’s somewhat unfortunate to see what has happened to Pujols since he left St. Louis for the bright lights of LA. It makes writing this a little bit strange knowing that he’s still playing. He’s not the same player out there. Gone are the consistent: 150 games, .330 avg, 40 HR, and 115 RBI seasons throughout the 2000’s. Maybe they were taken for granted. Not by him, but by us the fans. I remember having a sense of boredom with what he was doing. He made it seem so simple.
His eye at the plate was what I truly marveled at though (only his rookie season did he strikeout more times than he walked). The way he would spit on a breaking ball in the dirt as if to say, you thought THAT was going to strike me out? HA! But he also had a way of being selective within the zone. With the count in his favor he would lock into a portion of the plate where he could drive something. With two strikes Pujols would foul off pitch after pitch after pitch after pitch.. until getting the mistake and drilling it. It was the personification of two men testing their wills. Albert rarely lost. Even his outs were squared up. And in a game where failure is expected more times than success, I swear you could audibly hear crowds exhale when Pujols would get out on the road.
‘I consider myself a line drive hitter with power. I just try to put my best swing on the ball every time.’
My favorite story of Pujols greatness actually never happened on a baseball field. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get all sappy here. I remember watching a special as a kid on Albert Pujols, can’t find any account for it now, but I stand by the truth of it. It was a machine that he had at his house that would fire tennis balls at 120mph. To make things more extreme than that already is, the balls were numbered. 1, 2, & 3 I believe. Each Sharpee’d number represented an area on the field. Albert then would have to hit the ball into that section. Can you even begin to imagine?
He is one of the really good guys in the game and a first ballot Hall of Famer, no doubt. He showed my generation that superstars don’t need needles and arrogance. And while it’s a shame to see his career dwindle quietly out on the west coast, there is some solace to take knowing how good he was for those eleven years under The Arch.
Well that wraps up my series. I hope you all enjoyed it. Maybe even learned a thing or two along the way? Feedback is always welcomed! Is there any decade would you have done differently?