Angels first baseman Albert Pujols will retire after the 2021 season, per his wife Deidre.
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Here’s the text of her message, in case the Instagram post isn’t rendering for whatever reason.
Today is the first day of the last season of one of the most remarkable careers in sports! I’m talking about my husband @albertpujols who since the time he was a child would eat, sleep, and breath this sport. I have had the privilege to walk out 23 years of this baseball journey and it is with such a full heart that I speak a blessing over him as he finishes this good race! I’ve never known anyone more dedicated, disciplined and consistent than Albert. He has loved the game, he has hurt for the game, and he made sacrifices for this game as if it was his own child. He has grown from just a zealous young man into a confident leader who so many look up to. We by no means are perfect and he is definitely not a machine as so many have called him but he has given all he had to make sure we all had a victory to experience with him on the field. Albert says he doesn’t want to be known for what he did on the field but rather who he was off the field…today I will celebrate both! God isn’t finished with you yet my love and as you finish out this last season I know already prepared for you is another journey full of goodness waiting just for you! Thank you for 21 years of incredible baseball thrills! Finish strong like the Angel you are and I know you will wow us all this 2021 season as usual! #lastseason #baseball #mlb #baseballplayer #albertpujols #angelsbaseball
Deidre Pujols edited her post after the fact, adding (based on his contract) in after the phrase “last season.”
Deidre Pujols has amended the Instagram post: pic.twitter.com/mhdLXRbbCa
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) February 23, 2021
You can divide Pujols’ career evenly into two eras: the St. Louis years, and the Anaheim years. With the Cardinals, Pujols was not only a slam dunk Hall of Famer, he was an all-time great. In 11 seasons in St. Louis, Pujols hit .328/.420/.617 with 445 home runs. He was the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year, a three-time NL MVP, and a two-time World Series champion. Over those 11 years, he finished outside the top three in MVP voting three times, and outside the top five just once. No matter what happened over the rest of his career, he was heading for the Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t build on those accolades after signing a ten-year, $240 million deal with the Angels following the 2011 season. Pujols’ health went in Anaheim: after never failing to record 600 plate appearances with the Cardinals, he crossed the threshold five times with the Angels, last in 2017. He received MVP votes just twice, finishing 17th in both 2012 and 2014. After making nine All-Star teams with the Cardinals, he made just one with the Angels. He homered just 217 times with his new team, and slashed .257/.312/.448. In terms of OPS+, Pujols hit like Ty Cobb with the Cardinals. With the Angels, he hit like Nick Markakis. There’s nothing wrong with Nick Markakis, but he’s not even in the same stratosphere as Ty Cobb.
Where it’s gotten real bad for Pujols is over the last four years. Since the start of 2017, he’s slashed .242/.291/.406 with just 71 homers and twice as many strikeouts as walks. As a Cardinal, he walked more than he struck out. The decline across the board has been staggering, though not unexpected.
But let’s be honest: even with the down years, Pujols is a no doubt, slam dunk, first ballot, should be unanimous Hall of Famer. Pujols ranks fifth on the all-time home run list with 662, and can theoretically pass Alex Rodriguez (34 ahead at 696) to retire fourth overall this season. He’s 15th all-time in hits with 3,236, and likely will finish in the top ten overall (Paul Molitor ranks tenth currently with 3,319). He’s 16th all-time in runs scored with 1,843, and while Stan Musial and the top ten are likely out of reach (1,949), Lou Gehrig and 12th all-time is an attainable goal (1,888). Pujols also ranks fifth all-time in total bases (5,923, Musial is second all-time with 6,134), third in RBI with 2,100 (Babe Ruth is second with 2,214), and fifth in doubles with 669 (Cobb ranks fourth with 724).
Here’s hoping fans are able to give Pujols a sendoff in stadiums across the country sometime this year. The man deserves it, and deserves a hero’s welcome in Cooperstown later this decade (as well as St. Louis, who hasn’t issued his #5 in the years since his departure).