Is this the end of the line for Albert Pujols? Not many people are asked about retirement at only 41 years of age, but not many people have had the kind of career that Pujols has had. The Major League Baseball slugger entered his 21st season this spring with questions about his pending free agency.
Pujols’ wife, Diedre, sparked a frenzy with a social media post referring to the 2021 season being Pujols’ last of his storied career. And it has been a majestic one. Coming into the 2021 season, Pujols was sitting on 662 home runs for his career. Along that stat line, Pujols also belted in 2,100 runs and collected 3,236 hits. Real Hall of Fame stuff.
However, this season, in its early stages, has not been too kind to Pujols. He is currently batting .227 on the season. Pujols’ inability to crack the magical .300 batting average mark for the 11th straight season in his 21 years of playing pro baseball just might be a tell-tale sign of the kind of productivity deterioration the once-feared slugger is grappling with.
This false alarm retirement thing can be nerve-wracking. Pujols says he woke from a nap to dozens of missed phone calls and messages about his retirement, he turned on the TV and found out about his wife’s post. Diedre Pujols took to Instagram to post well wishes for her husband’s upcoming season not knowing the frenzy it would cause.
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Diedre later amended her post with another saying that she was referring to the upcoming season being Pujols’ final season under contract, and Pujols also clarified the Instagram post to reporters.
“My main focus is on this year,” Pujols said. “That decision will come at the end of the year. I know what Diedre was trying to say. Everybody had to run with it, but, hey, that’s the life we live in with social media. At the end of the day, I told her not to feel bad about it, because I knew
what she was trying to say in that post.”
Pujols has had quite the career. He’s a two-time World Series champion. He has claimed three-time MVP awards and is a 10-time All-Star. It was these types of accomplishments that got the Los Angeles Angels to offer Pujols a massive contract deal in 2011. From 2001 to 2011 Pujols called St. Louis home when he was wreaking havoc throughout the major leagues.
As a Cardinal, Pujols accomplished most of his achievements noted above. Those two World Series titles came with playing for the Cardinals. Those three MVP honors and nine of the 10 All-Star nods he received came by of playing in a Cardinal uniform. He batted .300 every season except for one, and he had 100 or more RBIs in every season except for one.
The one season that Pujols batted under .300, he batted .299, and the season with fewer than 100 RBIs he had 99, If his career had ended then he’d be remembered as one of the GOATs (greatest of all time).
The Angels thought this was the player to bring a World Series title to the club, that Pujols would have them playing October baseball year after year. The second decade of Pujols career has not worked out as the first decade did. In his tenure with the Angels, the team made the playoffs once and Pujols made only one All-Star team and that’s it.
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No World Series championships and no most valuable player awards. But the Angels were stuck with Pujols and his 10-year $240 million deal that came with a no-trade clause.
It is hard to believe the drop off Pujols has had in the backend of his career, but it is important to remember the heights he has reached. Pujols will still go down in the history books as one of the greatest hitters of all time despite his recent play in the past few years and Pujols has the ability to impact the game in more ways than simply being on the field.
Angels manager Joe Maddon knows that he can use Pujols to the team’s advantage even if he isn’t in the lineup.
“There’s just so much going on with Albert [Pujols], both on and off the field, he’s one of the most philanthropic and charitable guys I’ve ever met,” Maddon said.
Pujols knows that his playing time may be limited but he is ready to accept whatever role he is given if it helps the team make it back to the postseason.
“I don’t control when I’m going to play or when I’m going to be in the lineup. Whenever I’m out there just like last year, I’m going to do my best to help this organization win,” Pujols said.
This will be the last season of the mega-contract he received back in 2011, 10-year $240 million, for who was arguably the best player in baseball. The past decade didn’t work out like the Angels might have hoped but there is still plenty of room for optimism in the Angels clubhouse.
With the current best player in baseball Mike Trout and two-way threat Shohei Ohtani, The Angels can make some noise well into October.
As for what will happen with Pujols once the season concludes, not even he knows yet. But no matter the road that lies ahead, Pujols will always be one of the best to ever do it.
“I want to help this ballclub win, and if at the end of the year I decide that’s it, I’ll announce it and go home. But I’m not even there yet,” Pujols said.