There is a new member of baseball’s 700 home run club.
Albert Pujols blasted the 700th home run of his career on Friday night, becoming the fourth person in MLB history to accomplish that feat.
He joins Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), and Babe Ruth (714) as the only players in the 700 home run club.
He also hit his 699th earlier in the game. Pujols hit his 499th and 500th in the same game, too.
Bonds was the last person to hit 700 back on Sept. 17, 2004. He hit 62 more throughout his career to become the home run king, but many think Aaron still holds the true record due to Bonds’ alleged link with performance-enhancing drugs.
Aaron hit his 700th in 1973, while Ruth did so way back in 1934.
Pujols returned to the St. Louis Cardinals for what he has said will be his final season. He was drafted by the Cardinals in 1999, but shot up through the minor leagues. In 2001, he not only was named the National League Rookie of the Year – he finished in fourth in the NL MVP vote that year, putting the majors on notice.
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From 2001 to 2011, he won three MVPs, two World Series, and led the majors in OPS three times, cementing himself as one of baseball’s all-time greats. In that span, he hit .328 with 445 home runs, 1,329 RBI, and a 1.037 OPS in 1,705 total games.
At that point, it was a matter of when – not if – he would join the 700 club.
But following the 2011 season, he signed a 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels worth $240 million, and he severely underperformed, especially on the back end of the deal.
He was pedestrian in his first season out west, hitting .285 with 30 homers and 105 RBI, but the next four years were underwhelming.
From 2013 to 2016, his OPS was just .783. He did average 29 homers in those years, but he wasn’t living up to the deal, and it only got worse.
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In 460 games from 2017 to his last game as an Angel in 2021, he hit just .240 with an OPS of .694. The Angels DFA’d him, and the Dodgers scooped him up – he hit 12 homers in 85 games for them.
Pujols was again a free agent, and he and the Cardinals agreed on a reunion for one final season.
Entering this year, he needed 21 home runs to get the feat. With his performance in recent years, 700 was now an outside chance – a weird thought given he averaged 37 homers a season from 2001-2015 – but he would at the least make a slight run at it.
And usually, with the pressure of such a moment, many players may crumble. But since mid-July, he not only has embraced it – he’s suddenly been one of the game’s best hitters, looking like the Pujols of old.
Entering Friday night, since July 10, he has been the Pujols of old, hitting .312 with a 1.026 OPS. He now has 16 home runs in his last 54 games played. With that stretch, he has raised his average from .198 to .261 and his OPS from .624 to .845. It, once again, became a matter of when – not if.
Pujols wasn’t the only Cardinal chasing history this year. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina just broke the all-time MLB record for most starts by a battery. Wainwright threw the first pitch of a game to Yadi Wednesday for the 325th time in their careers.
Molina will join Pujols in retirement when the season is over – Wainwright still hasn’t decided.
But the exact date of when their careers will end is unknown – the Cardinals are headed to the postseason this year, and that trio will be looking to go out on top, winning a World Series for the third time in their careers.
Smells like destiny in St. Louis.
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