In my mind, the nutsiest thing about Albert Pujols is that he really wasn’t supposed to make the Cardinals in 2001. He had a nice overall season in the minors in 2000 — his only season in the minors — but 440 of his 544 plate appearances were in A-ball. Bobby Bonilla was supposed to the the Cards’ starting third baseman, not Pujols. But for an injury to Bonilla I’m assuming Albert would have started the year Memphis. I haven’t gone back to look this morning, but my memory of that spring is of people wondering if the kid could hack it and some cautious predictions about how he might be a three-true-outcomes kind of power player until he figured out the league a bit better.
But here we are, ten seasons in. Ten seasons in which El Hombre — and I don’t care if doesn’t like it, it’s an awesome nickname — has hit 30+ homers each season. In which he’s hit .300+ each season. In which he’s knocked in 100+ each season. In which we can take no issue with anyone citing his triple crown numbers because his OBP and other peripherals are so stunning that we can be excused for dwelling on the classic stats.
With nearly ten full years under his belt we’ve just about reached the “if Pujols gets hit by a bus tomorrow he’s in the Hall of Fame” point, though given how amazing the guy is I assume Cooperstown would have made an exception for him before now. Short of that, even a Dale Murphy-style decline isn’t going to prevent him from making the Hall one day. A normal decline starting now has him cruise in smoother than cream cheese, safely near the top percentile of all time greats. A couple more years of his current level and he’s in the extreme inner circle. If he isn’t already.
Sorry for the rather pointless gushing here, but sometimes you just have to stop and realize what you’re witnessing.