Mike Sweeney retires

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Mike Sweeney is announcing his retirement today.  Given that this word is coming via Royals writers and the announcement is happening in Surprise, Arizona, he is apparently retiring as a Royal, if not in a formal contractual sense, then at least in a cosmic sense.

Which is appropriate, as Mike Sweeney was the Kansas City Royals for many, many years. He played thirteen of his sixteen major league seasons in Kansas City, excelling in a Royals uniform. His career line in Kansas City was .299/.369/.492.  He played 1,282 games and smacked 197 homers there.

He was also one of the few bright spots during his tenure on that team. He became a full time player in 1999. Between then and 2007 the Royals lost 100 games four times, 97 games twice and 93 games once. The only bright spot from a team perspective came in 2003, when the Royals surprised everyone, holding on to first place in the AL Central for a long, long time before fading but, ultimately, finishing above .500.  It was that year, however, when Sweeney began to suffer an increasing number of injuries, playing in only 108 games.  After 2005 he never played in 100 games again.

Upon leaving the Royals, Sweeney bounced from Oakland to Seattle to Philadelphia where he played some first base, did some designated hitting and served as a pinch hitter/hugging/inspirational guy.  That inspirational part was always a bit complicated, however, as it is with most players.  When things were going well — like they did during his time with the Phillies — Mike Sweeney was a living, breathing, hugging pep-squad.  When things turned sour — like his time in Seattle last year — things got ugly.

The ups and downs of life in a major league clubhouse aside, Sweeney has long been a good baseball citizen. He’s extremely active in the community. He’s a man of faith and family. With the exception of Jeff Weaver, he’s generally been a well-liked fellow.

Nice career. Too bad he never got to be part of a winning team when he was in his prime. Good travels, Mike Sweeney.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.