With Albert Pujols approaching 600 career home runs, a feat only eight other players ever have accomplished, I felt now is as good of a time as ever to question his legacy as a baseball player. Is he first-ballot? Should he be considered one of the best first baseman ever? How does he stack up against the all-time greats?
With the seemingly early and forced retirement of Alex Rodriguez last summer, Albert Pujols became the active career home run leader in the MLB, where he currently sits at 597. Ahead of him are the following names: Sammy Sosa (609), Jim Thome (612), Ken Griffey Jr. (630) , Willie Mays (660) , Alex Rodriguez (696), Babe Ruth (714) , Hank Aaron (755), and unfortunately Barry Bonds (762).
Pujols is signed through 2021 with over $150 million dollars still owed to him, so I think it would be safe to assume, barring injury and “only” being 37, that he plays through these years. So with 597 home runs, and averaging 25 home runs a year until that time, he would finish with 716 career home runs. That’s right folks, that’s better than Ruth.
Is he a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
Yes. 100%. Ken Griffey, Jr was unanimously voted in his first time eligible, and by the time Pujols is done, he will blow by some of his numbers.
Griffey, Jr.: 2,781 hits, .284 BA, 630 home runs, 1,836 RBI, one MVP, 10 Gold Gloves
Pujols: 2,867 hits, .308 BA, 597 home runs, 1,851 RBI, 3 MVPs, and 2 World Series rings
Essentially, the only things Pujols gets edged out in are fielding and stolen bases. So based on the fact that the only person to ever be unanimously voted in the first ballot is not going to have as great career numbers as Pujols makes it pretty locked in that he will be first ballot.
Is he one of the best first baseman ever?
ESPN asked this same question last year, and I agree with the list they put together.
5. Miguel Cabrera 4. Jimmie Foxx 3. Albert Pujols 2. Stan Musial 1. Lou Gehrig
People might think it’s weird to see Cabrera over Pujols considering Cabrera recently won a Triple Crown and has been owning professional pitching for as long as anyone can remember, but people forget how good Pujols was on the Cardinals. He had TEN straight seasons with at least a .300 batting average, 30 home runs, and 100 RBI. That is unheard of. So the answer to this question is also…yes. He is the best of our generation, sorry Miguel.
How does he stack up against all-time greats?
How do you answer this question? Numbers don’t mean much since all the numbers at the top of the list are absurd. So you have to look at legacy. He wasn’t Jeter-esque or Yogi Berra-like when it came to being a part of a dynasty, his championships were spread out (2006, 2011). His team made a pretty legendary run in ’06 considering they barely made the playoffs with 83 wins, so that’s a plus for him. He has great playoff numbers (.323, 19 HR, and 54 RBI in 77 games), and he was always at the forefront of a dangerous Cardinals (and sometimes Angels) lineup. He made it through the steroid-era clean, which unfortunately is a plus nowadays since the record book has become so tainted.
Bleacher Report and ESPN both left him out of the Top 25 for greatest players, and I think a lot of that has to do with his drop-off after joining the Angels. If we can get one or two more good to great seasons from Pujols, which is unlikely now with his age, we can say he is one of the top 5 best hitters to ever play baseball.
Just know that next time you catch an Angels game and the hype surrounds Mike Trout (rightfully so), remember that batting right after him is a living legend and somebody who you’ll want to tell your kids you saw play.