I saw this tweet from MLB celebrating Albert Pujols's debut 19 years ago today and it got me thinking about how little he's discussed relative to how historically great he has been for nearly two decades.
His move to the second-rate team in Los Angeles didn't do him any favors in terms of national exposure and discussion, but he should still be talked about far more than he is. There is a pretty good argument to be made Pujols is the best hitter of the last 40 years — though that title will almost certainly be supplanted by a teammate of his named Mike Trout.
Just take a look at these numbers:
Even including the down years at the tail end of his career, the average season for Pujols still includes a .300 batting average, .927 OPS, 38 home runs and 119 RBI.
And here's a list of the guys who have ever amassed 3,200 hits, 2,000 RBI and a .900 OPS in their careers:
Not too bad. Barry Bonds is close to making this list, but Pujols has 267 more hits and 79 more RBI in about 400 fewer career plate appearances — though Bonds does have significantly more walks.
Pujols and David Ortiz are probably my two favorite non-Braves of all-time. And I don't usually have favorite players outside of my teams, but I was excited every year when my dad and I would go to the Braves-Cardinals games in Atlanta — he's a Cardinals fan — and I got to see Pujols play. I really wish he was able to stay in St. Louis for the entirety of his career, because I think it would have kept him in much higher regard than being out on the west coast on a team which has only been to the Postseason once in his eight seasons there.
I'm sure that will change when his career is finished and everybody reflects on the ridiculous numbers he put up, but I wish The Machine would have received a little more appreciation while he's still playing. For my money, he's the best hitter since Hank Aaron. I hope we get a chance to watch him and everybody else in the Big Leagues this season.