Generally speaking, a generation spans 20-30 years. As such, the career of Albert Pujols now comprises an entire crop of baseball fans. Though that timeline doesn’t exactly line up age-wise for me, it is still eye-opening to view the baseball-related changes in my life via Pujols’ 20+ year run.
In 2001, Pujols (age 21) debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals and was an immediate sensation—161 games, 194 H, 37 HR, 130 RBI, 112 R, .329 BA, 1.013 OPS, 157 OPS+. That same year, I finally convinced my Dad—after extensive haranguing— to spring for the “Extended Basic” cable package so we could get the new Fox Sports North channel (replacing Midwest Sports Channel) and watch the Twins every night on our state-of-the-art 35” Sony cathode ray TV. Broadband home internet was also part of the bundle—maybe something useful would come of that. But I was far more excited about the TV portion of the deal!
Fast-forward 21 years and the 42-year old Pujols is still raking (again wearing the bat-and-birds threads)—104 G, 21 HR, 58 RBI, .261 BA, .854 OPS, 143 OPS+. He recently joined the ultra-exclusive 700 Home Run Club in his self-proclaimed final season. This year, for the first time, I watched all my Twins contests through an app streamed to my 65” flat-screen after “cutting the cord” years ago. My medium for viewing Albert’s historic #700? A live look-in from my iPhone. I guess that internet thing proved pretty handy.
In between those two scenarios—including stints with the Angels & Dodgers—Pujols never stopped hitting. Some career totals: 3,075 G, 3,378 H, 700 HR, 2,208 RBI, 1,908 R, .296 BA, .917 OPS, 144 OPS+. He and Henry Aaron now form a party of two as players to achieve 700 homers and 3K hits. His closest comp in terms of Similarity Score on Baseball-Reference? Willie Mays. In my baseball-watching life, I consider Pujols and Manny Ramirez to have possessed the most pure—and powerful—right-handed swings I’ve ever beheld.
On his path to 700 home runs, Pujols was aided by the following Twins hurlers: Kevin Slowey (2; 2009), Kyle Gibson (2013, 2016, & 2018), Phil Hughes (2014),
Mommy Tilone Tommy Milone (2016), Ervin Santana (2017), & Taylor Rogers (2017).
Of course, some things don’t change all that much: In 2001, the Twins were an exciting young ball club—seemingly full of potential—that collapsed down the stretch and missed a playoff berth. In 2022? Uh...yeah.
All told, I view Albert Pujols as a time capsule of my baseball fandom. Whether clicking through the cable TV channels or scrolling through the MLBtv highlights, Pujols has always been around. I’ll miss his unique, upright batting stance and dogged persistence through injuries and old age. I’m glad he made it to the round number HR milestone...