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There is a new member of 700 baseball circuits club.
Albert Pujol blasted the 700th home run of his career on Friday night, becoming the fourth person in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
He joins Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) as the only players in the club’s 700 home run.
He also hit his 699th earlier in the game. Pujols also reached his 499th and 500th in the same game.
Bonds was the last person to hit 700 in September. 17, 2004. He hit 62 more throughout his career to become the home run king, but many believe Aaron still holds the real record due to Bonds’ alleged connection to performance-enhancing drugs.
Aaron reached his 700th in 1973, while Ruth did so in 1934.
Pujols returned to the St. Louis Cardinals for what he said will be his final season. He was drafted by the Cardinals in 1999, but moved up to the minor leagues. In 2001, he was not only named National League Rookie of the Year, but he finished fourth in the NL MVP vote that year, putting the majors on notice.
From 2001 to 2011, he won three MVPs, two World Series, and led the OPS majors three times, cementing himself as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. During that span, he hit .328 with 445 home runs, 1,329 RBIs and 1,037 OPS in 1,705 total games.
At that time, it was a question of when – not if – he would join the 700 club.
But after the 2011 season, I signed a 10-year contract with them. Los Angeles Angels worth $240 million, and it severely underperformed, especially on the end of the trade.
He was pedestrian in his first season in the west, hitting .285 with 30 homers and 105 RBIs, but the next four years were disappointing.
From 2013 to 2016, his OPS was only 0.783. He averaged 29 home runs during those years, but he broke the deal and the situation only got worse.
In 460 games from 2017 to his final game as an Angel in 2021, he only hit 0.240 with an OPS of 0.694. The Angels put him out and the Dodgers got him back – he hit 12 homers in 85 games for them.
Pujols was a free agent again, and he and the Cardinals agreed to a reunion for one final season.
Going into this year, I needed 21 home runs to get the feat. With his performance in recent years, 700 was now an outside chance – an odd thought given he averaged 37 homers per season from 2001 to 2015 – but he would make at least a slight run.
And usually, with the pressure of such a moment, many players can crumble. But since mid-July, he not only embraced it, but suddenly became one of the best hitters in the game, resembling the Pujols of old.
Coming on Friday night, since July 10, he’s the Pujol of old, hitting .312 with an OPS of 1,026. He now has 17 home runs in his last 54 games played. With this stretch, he increased his average from 0.198 to 0.261 and his OPS from 0.624 to 0.845. It, once again, became a matter of when – not if.
Pujols wasn’t the only cardinal to pursue the story this year. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina come broke MLB’s all-time record for most battery starts. Wainwright threw the first pitch in a game against Yadi on Wednesday for the 325th time in his career.
Molina will join retired Pujols at the end of the season – Wainwright has yet to decide.
But the exact end date of their careers is unknown – the Cardinals are heading to the playoffs this year, and this trio will be looking to get the upper hand, winning a World Series for the third time in their careers.
It smells of fate in St. Louis.