The 42-year-old sparked excitement in the home run chase in 2022, last led MLB on the long ball and last won MVP in 2009 when his St. Louis Cardinals were Matt Holliday made a compelling deadline trade, and his son is only the No. 1 pick in the July draft.
When Albert Puyols rejoins the Cardinals for a farewell tour in 2022, he is sitting on 679 career homers. He hasn’t been an above-average hitter in a season since 2016, can’t play, and hasn’t been a good enough right-hander to hit regularly for a team with playoff ambitions. But the reunion with the Cardinals was so cute because of course it worked out, and now he’s been the spark for the team’s ascent to the top of the NL Central.
The seemingly impossible 700 eventually turned into a real possibility after hitting two home runs against Arizona earlier this weekend.
This seems impossible since his trendline turned south long ago.
We like to say who has walked the pace of history and who has the trajectory of historical leaders. But divide the list of all-time homers into age groups and you’ll see we’re kidding ourselves. The leaders by age 30 are Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Jimmie Foxx and Pujols, who had a whopping 408 at the end of 2010. The post-31 leaders are Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth, who are the only members the elusive 700-home-run club Pujols are trying to join. They both play more after age 31 than they did before.
Pujols has never had this speed in his 30s. After hitting 32 or more homers a year with the Cardinals, he’s only done it once with the Angels (40 in 2015). In the latter part of his tenure with the Angels, the question of home run history was second only to the question of how long he would last. He struggled to run or play due to recurring foot and leg problems; the team has been disappointing; his batting line keeps sinking. At one point, his (less popular) figure as a 100 WAR player slipped because he was accumulating negative .
But Puyols continued to play, seemingly reuniting with the Dodgers after parting ways with the Angels last year. Keep hitting the ball and try to use a little magic. At least now, he has found it. His eight home runs in a hot August was the most he has hit in any month since June 2015, when he hit 13. He has batted over .400 since the All-Star break and has outscored right-handers in at-bats.
He needed two homers to tie and three to pass Alex Rodriguez for fourth-time homers on the list. Hit six more home runs and he’ll reach that star that seems out of reach. However, he has regained our attention. The legend of the passage of time is once again a man of the hour.
Tracking Albert Pujols’ quest for 700 home runs
Puyols’ current score is 694. He made his most recent strike against the Reds on Monday night.
Predictably, it was played against the Reds. A left-handed. Now, 11 of his 15 homers in 2022 are left-handed. This one is from Ross Detwiler. In the process, Puyols set a new major league record, hitting his 450th career pitching homer and breaking a tie with Barry Bonds.
The next chance to face a southpaw starter could be against Mike Minor of the Reds on Wednesday. Pujols has faced him 23 times but never hit a home run. He will also have plenty of chances in front of the home fans in early September. The Cardinals played 14 of their first 14 games on September 17 in St. Louis.