Less than a decade into his career, Albert Pujols is starting to scale to some lofty heights in the baseball record books. His status in the history of the game is more impressive when you figure that you're comparing Pujols to players who finished their entire career while he is presumably somewhere between half way and two-thirds of the way through his.
His two home runs Tuesday night propelled the St. Louis slugger to 55th all-time in the major leagues with 384 long balls. He passed Frank Howard and Larry Walker and is currently tied with Harold Baines for most career home runs. He's one behind Jim Edmonds and Dwight Evans, five behind Johnny Bench and six behind Graig Nettles. Pujols will crack the top 50 when he ties Joe Carter at 396. With 20 or so more homers for the rest of the season, Pujols would rank 47th all-time between Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline (399) and Duke Snider (407). Five more years of 30 home runs per would easily put Pujols in the top 20 all-time.
Pujols ranks 179th all time in total bases with 3,389 for his career. He has 159 so far this season, which is actually behind his average of 371 bases a season. With a relatively modest 150 more the rest of this season (which is five games shy of being half way over) he'd leap to 144th all time with 3,539 total bases behind Joe Cronin's 3,546. Another 350 total bases in 2011 would push Pujols to 92nd all time with 3,889, just behind Larry Walker. Five more years of 150 per season is 5,289, 12th all time right behind Frank Robinson.
Pujols is 96th all-time in runs created with 1,432, one behind another Hall of Famer who played for the Cardinals, Johnny Mize. He averages 250 runs created a year, so if Pujols manages another 125 runs created over the balance of 2010 that would give him 1,557, one shy of Roberto Clemente in 77th place. If he averages 230 runs created for five years after that, Pujols would have 2,207. That would place him 71st all time, one behind Roberto Clemente and ahead of Ricky Henderson, Tris Speaker, Carl Yastrzemski and Jimmy Foxx.
I hate to try to project numbers too far because there are too many Mickey Mantles and Ken Griffey Juniors out there who were derailed from their true greatness by injury. But I think it's pretty safe to say that Pujols has reached the point where, if he retired tomorrow, he would have to have serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. And that's saying something for a guy who is 30 years old with 9 1/2 seasons of Major League Baseball under his belt.
Although the Cardinals have at times been frustrating over the last few years, I try to remind myself sometimes of what a great time it is to be a Redbirds fan. Without a doubt, Pujols has reached the status of being one of the two greatest players in team history. I never thought I'd see a player that people could compare with Stan Musial without causing people to say "You must be out of your mind!"
And, unlike the bulk of Musial's career, Pujols hasn't had to be a one-man band. Jim Edmonds, with a couple of more good seasons could have had a pretty good case for the Hall of Fame. With all due respect to Willie McGee and Terry Moore, it's hard to argue that Edmonds wasn't the best centerfielder in the history of the Cardinals. He won eight Gold Gloves to McGee's three. McGee won a pair of batting titles and had a .295 career batting average to Edmonds' .284. But, while McGee earlier in his career had superior speed, he couldn't match Jimmy Ballgame's power bat.
Dare I say that Chris Carpenter is making a case to be one of the top few pitchers in Cardinals history? He doesn't have the longevity or the health of Bob Gibson. But he has matched Gibby in Cy Young Awards and is a doppelganger when it comes to bulldog mentality. He's 77-25 as a Cardinal, a .755 winning percentage, and he's maintained a 2.89 ERA in St. Louis since 2005, one of the most offense oriented eras in baseball history.
Dizzy Dean had a .641 winning percentage with a 2.99 ERA for some pretty darn good Cardinals teams in the 1930s. Mort Cooper from 1938-44 was 103-50 for a .673 winning percentage with a 2.79 ERA in a St. Louis uniform. From 1940-1950 Harry Brecheen had a .618 winning percentage with a 2.91 ERA.
During Albert's reign. Larry Walker, Edgar Renteria, Mike Matheny, Yadier Molina, Scott Rolen, Adam Wainwright, Jason Isringhausen and Matt Morris also wore Cardinals red. That's quite a group.
I only hope that as Pujols re-writes the record book that one stat remains tied with Stan the Man. Teams played for: 1.
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