Albert Pujols Turned Back The Clock To Achieve 700

Today, we take a look at how Albert Pujols reached the historic 700 home run club.Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

By Tyler Maher

There’s nothing more exciting in baseball than a home run chase, and baseball fans have been treated to two of them as the season winds down.

On the one hand, we had an all-time great and future Hall-of-Famer (Albert Pujols) pursuing a career milestone. On the other hand, we had one of the best hitters in baseball (Aaron Judge) putting together a season for the ages.

I want to talk about that first guy for a minute. When the year began, 700 career homers seemed like a remote possibility for Pujols. He was 42 and over a decade removed from his prime. Age and injuries had broken down the man they’d once called “The Machine,” and it had been years since he was last an above-average hitter. It was hard to envision him getting the 21 homers he needed to reach 700, especially in a part-time role that limited his at-bats against right-handed pitchers. It was fun to see him back with his old team, the St. Louis Cardinals, but that only seemed to underscore how far he’d fallen since he last played for them in 2011.

Like many hitters this year, Pujols got off to a slow start. Through July 9, he was hitting just .198/.291/.333 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 47 games. Even by his recent standards, it was still shaping up to be the worst season of his life. Pujols looked like a guy who was in his final season, the 22nd of his illustrious career. He seemed old and tired and washed up, and no one was even thinking about 700 at that point.  

But then, something magical happened. During the heat of summer, Pujols suddenly started to hit again. He finished July on a hot streak, but August was when he really took off. The three-time NL MVP smashed seven home runs during a 10-game stretch in the middle of August, and just like that the chase was on. 

While other players started wearing down during the dog days of summer, Pujols was getting stronger. He entered September with 694 homers, needing just three to surpass Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the all-time list. Pujols tied Rodriguez on September 10 and passed him the very next day, and then the countdown to 700 was really on.

Less than two weeks later, Pujols did it. He spared us the drama by blasting Nos. 699 and 700 in the same game, leading the Cardinals to an 11-0 rout of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It happened in Hollywood, fittingly enough, considering that much of this season has seemed like the stuff of sports movies for Pujols.

Even so, it was still an incredible moment for Pujols and for baseball. Only three other players in the game’s rich history have ever achieved 700 home runs, and their names are Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds. Ruth did it during the Great Depression, when the game wasn’t even integrated yet. Aaron did it through sheer will and steady consistency, overcoming horrific racism along the way. Bonds did it with chemical help and pitchers walking him every other time he came up.

As for Pujols, he found another way. He turned back the clock in what could be his final season, putting a decade’s worth of injuries and prolonged slumps behind him. For a few months, at least, he looked young and happy and healthy again. He was locked in at the plate and terrorizing pitchers who were still in diapers when he first came up. He was Albert Pujols again, no longer a shell of his former self.

A lot of people had forgotten what that looked like. I’m glad he was able to remind us.

Tyler Maher is a Content Editor for The Duel who hopes Albert Pujols comes back for another season.

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