Albert Pujols’s dream of reaching 700 profession home runs has hardly been a secret. Whilst his profession faded badly with the Angels, and any hope of topping Barry Bonds for the profession record was snuffed out entirely, the prospect of doing what Alex Rodriguez didn’t by becoming the fourth player to hitch baseball’s 700-homer club loomed as a distant, but not inconceivable, coda to a terrific profession.
A stint with the Dodgers at the tip of last season rekindled something inside Pujols, who appeared to be having fun with life in baseball for the primary time in years. And a return to St. Louis for one final run with the Cardinals carried those good vibes forward into this season.
“I’m the grandpa on this clubhouse,” Pujols said recently. “I’m having an awesome time.”
But on July 4, any hope of reaching 700 appeared to have run out. An 0-for-2 performance against Atlanta that day lowered his batting average for the season to .189. He had only 4 home runs through 82 team games, leaving him at 683 for his profession.
Seventeen home runs over 80 team games may not have gave the impression of an insurmountable goal for a player who has 14 30-homer seasons on his résumé. But his part-time status and his poor performance on the plate made it seem as if Pujols’s farewell tour — he and catcher Yadier Molina are being feted of their final game in nearly every road city — was almost entirely ceremonial.
Then something modified. Whether he felt healthier, his opportunities got higher or some kind of desperation kicked in shall be left for the biographers to sort out, but since that 0-fer on July 4, Pujols has found his old Cardinals form. In a 28-game stretch through Sunday, he hit .408 with a .459 on-base percentage and .829 slugging percentage. His batting average since July 5 leads all players (minimum 80 plate appearances), but more vital, he has hit nine home runs, pushing him to 692 for his profession.
“That’s the labor I put in day in and day trip,” Pujols told reporters after he homered twice in a win on Saturday. “Nothing surprises me.”
Throughout the hot streak, Pujols passed Stan Musial for No. 2 on the profession list for total bases — he now trails only Hank Aaron — and he collected a pair of two-homer games. Together with one other two-homer game in May, Pujols owns three of the 12 multiple-homer games which have ever been recorded by a player 42 or older.
It has reached the purpose where nearly every game seems to have Pujols climbing some kind of profession or age-based list. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted eight such instances just from Saturday’s game.
All of that leaves Pujols only five home runs wanting passing Rodriguez (696) for fourth on the profession list and eight wanting reaching 700 for his profession, with 40 Cardinals games remaining this season.
To be clear, the percentages are still stacked against him. Along with his effectiveness coming mostly in at-bats against left-handed pitchers, and his age and various ailments limiting his playing time even beyond that, he cannot afford anything resembling a slump. And for as hot as he has been during the last two months, he has also had some extreme droughts this season: Twice he went greater than 30 team games between home runs. So the probably end result continues to be for Pujols to fall frustratingly wanting each Rodriguez and 700.
But for Cardinals fans, getting one last have a look at Pujols in something resembling his vintage prime must be satisfying, particularly for the reason that hot streak has coincided with St. Louis’s overtaking the Milwaukee Brewers for the division lead within the N.L. Central.
The one thing left that would top the new streak or Pujols’s finding a technique to get to 700 could be yet one more prolonged postseason run for the slugger and his original team. In any case, Pujols led the Cardinals to 2 World Series titles back when his eventual passing of Babe Ruth, Aaron and Bonds on the profession home run list gave the impression of a foregone conclusion.