It is surprisingly easy to seem to take what Albert Pujols accomplishes on the field of play for granted. It isn’t something I would ever plan to do, but it just seems to happen.
Looking back, since starting this blog in December, I have made almost 200 formal posts. Yet the best player in the game has been the primary subject just five times – two articles relating to the World Baseball Classic, one about his contract status and two concerning steroids.
I haven’t ignored him completely, though. One of my accomplished objectives for spring training this year was to sit down with Pujols to discuss his humanitarian efforts. He is prickly with the press as he can be inundated with requests to discuss baseball, the reaction for which I can hardly blame him, but warms up when the topic is helping others.
Pujols received substantial notice across the baseball world this past weekend as the result of two big home runs and seven RBI in Saturday’s Cardinals 11-2 home win over the Houston Astros.
The reality is that Pujols has been quietly delivering all along.
As I look around the net this morning, the main storylines from Monday evening’s 2-1 Cardinals win over Arizona are Todd Wellemeyer’s sharp seven innings of work, the “revenge” game-winning home run by Brian Barden to sink his former club and the shaky yet ultimately effective ninth inning stint from closer-by-default Ryan Franklin.
All are most valid, yet there seems scant acknowledgment of Pujols’ solo home run in the fourth inning. It was at least as important as his feats on Saturday as it set the tone, putting the Cardinals up in a tight pitching duel in their very first road game of the season.
In salute of Pujols, this post touches on just a few of his many recent feats.
Albert has reached base safely in 16 of his first 34 plate appearances to begin the regular season. His current line for 2009 is .357/.471/.821.
Pujols leads the Cardinals with 10 RBI. Only one other player (Ryan Ludwick) has even half.
With his RBI Monday, Pujols needs just 13 to reach 1000 for his career.
Since Pujols’ 2001 debut, the Cardinals are now 703-544 (.564) all-time when he appeared in a game.
Albert is one of eight active players to have appeared in 700 or more wins with their original teams.
Pujols has played in 1247 games for St. Louis, one of 13 current players who have played 1000-plus games with one team. Atlanta’s Chipper Jones (2029 games) and the Yankees’ Derek Jeter (1992) top the list.
Chipper is also the active leader in home runs (409) for a player who has played his entire career with one franchise. With his NL-leading four this season, Pujols’ Cardinals and career count is 323. Mike Schmidt is the all-time leader with 548 home runs while playing exclusively for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Among players who have played 60-plus percent of their time at first base this decade, Pujols has taken the positional home run lead over the Mets’ Carlos Delgado 323-321. Oakland’s Jason Giambi is next with 290.
Albert’s first two home run game of 2009 included a 431-foot third-deck grand slam into Big Mac Land, and a three run shot. The bases loaded blast was his seventh in his eight-plus year career. It was his 24th career multi-home run game.
The seven RBI matched his career single-game high for a second time. Pujols also tied the Cardinals career record for games with seven-or-more RBIs. Four other Cardinals have a pair of such games since baseball began compiling RBIs officially in 1920. Three are in the Hall of Fame – Jim Bottomley, Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial. The other is Silent George Hendrick, who had seven-RBI games in 1978 and 1982.
Pujols currently leads all players with 200 career RBI at the new Busch Stadium, accrued in 231 games played there.
When Pujols has four or more RBI, the Cardinals have a 39-2 record and are 20-4 all-time in his multi-home run games.
The former Gold Glove Award winner at first base collected seven assists Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Five were on groundouts with the pitcher covering first base.
Pujols’ seven assists in one game set the all-time record for Cardinals first basemen and represent the most by any Major League first baseman in a nine inning game since Pittsburgh’s Bob Robertson had eight almost 38 years ago – on June 21, 1971.
Pujols started the season right last Monday against the Pirates with his first-ever three-hit Opening Day game.
Pujols current run of eight 30-home run and 30-double seasons ties Manny Ramirez for the longest stretch in MLB history. Pujols can own the record alone in 2009.
Most Consecutive Seasons 30 HR-30 2B – MLB
After a two year break, Manny collected his tenth 30-30 season in 2008. Albert is two behind for their careers, but he is just 29 years old while Ramirez turns 37 next month.
Most Seasons 30 HR-30 2B – MLB
Pujols leads the Cardinals franchise all-time in the number of both consecutive and total 40 and 30 home run seasons and trails Musial by just two in consecutive 20 home run years.
Consecutive 20 HR seasons – StL
Consecutive 30 HR seasons – StL
Consecutive 40 HR seasons – StL
10 HR seasons – StL
20 HR seasons – StL
30 HR seasons – StL
40 HR seasons – StL
Addendum: Since 1954, the Cardinals have only seen two players deliver two different two home run, seven RBI or greater performances. As expected, the two are Pujols and Musial. Among current Cardinals, Rick Ankiel has accomplished the feat once.