Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pujol...the best ever?

José Alberto Pujols (IPA: /ˡpuˌhoʊlz/), (born January 16, 1980, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) is a Major League Baseball player with the St. Louis Cardinals. He is widely regarded as one of the best and most dangerous hitters in the game today.[1][2]

Since his debut in 2001 through the 2006 season he leads the major leagues in RBI (841), runs (829), total bases (2452), and extra base hits (577), and is second in home runs (250, to Alex Rodriguez 275) and batting average (.332, to Barry Bonds .333). In recent years, he has become an excellent defensive player at first base, winning his first Gold Glove award in 2006. During the 2006 season, Pujols became the first Major League player to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first six seasons, and the youngest to hit 250 home runs. He extended his 30-HR streak to seven consecutive years in 2007 on August 22 against the Florida Marlins with a 2-run blast (#280 for his career) at Busch Stadium in the first inning. He is also the first player since Ted Williams (8 yrs.; 1939-1942, and 1946-1949) to begin his career with six straight 100 RBI seasons.

2001: Rookie of the Year

During spring training in 2001, the Cardinals were preparing for Pujols to join the Major League ranks, but the Cardinals' roster was already full of talented players, including Mark McGwire, Fernando Viña, Edgar Rentería, Ray Lankford, Jim Edmonds and J. D. Drew. While it's widely believed that an injury to bench player Bobby Bonilla freed up a roster spot, Pujols actually played extremely well in spring and won a spot on the Opening Day roster before Bonilla went on the DL. His first Major League game was against the Colorado Rockies in Denver.

In the season's second series, playing against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Pujols hit a home run, three doubles and eight runs batted in, securing his spot on the team. In May, he was named National League Rookie of the Month. In June, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game by NL manager Bobby Valentine, the first Cardinal rookie selected since 1955. Pujols' phenomenal rookie season helped the Cardinals tie for the National League Central Division title. For the season, Pujols batted .329/.403/.610 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with 37 home runs and 130 RBI, and was unanimously named the National League Rookie of the Year. His 37 home runs were one short of the National League rookie record of 38, held by Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves and Frank Robinson of the 1956 Cincinnati Redlegs. His 130 RBI set an NL rookie record.

2002: Sophomore Slump
Pujols wearing the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals retro jersey.

In 2002, Pujols struggled early on as pitchers learned to pitch to him, but he continued to bat extremely well throughout the season, hitting .314/.394/.561 with 34 homers and 127 RBIs. The Cardinals finished first in the NL Central during a difficult campaign that saw the death of team announcer Jack Buck and the sudden death of pitcher Darryl Kile. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship series. Albert would ultimately finish second in the MVP voting behind Barry Bonds.

2003: Batting Champion

In the 2003 season, Pujols had one of the best individual seasons in Cardinals history batting .359/.439/.667 with 43 home runs and 124 RBI, winning the National League batting title, while also leading the league in runs, hits, doubles, extra base hits and total bases. At 23, Albert became the youngest NL batting champion since 1962 and joined Rogers Hornsby as the only players in Cardinals history to record 40+ homers and 200+ hits in the same season. The Cardinals, however, failed to make the playoffs, faltering in the stretch to the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. Pujols also finished second in the MVP voting to Barry Bonds and had a 30 game hitting streak.

2004: Full-time First Baseman

Defensively, Pujols started his major league career primarily as a third baseman. It can also be noted that during Pujols' rookie season, he started at four different positions (1B, 3B, LF and RF), during the course of the season, and has also appeared at 2B (late in the 2001 All-Star game) and SS (late in one 2002 regular season game). When Scott Rolen joined the team in 2002, Pujols was moved to left field. Following an injury scare in 2003, Pujols was moved to his current position, first base.

Albert signed a 7 year, $100 million contract extension with the Cardinals before the 2004 season began. Throughout the year, Pujols was nagged by plantar fasciitis, but he was still a powerful hitter, hitting .331/.415/.657 with 46 home runs and 123 RBI. In addition, Pujols was chosen to appear on the cover of EA Sports' video game, MVP Baseball 2004. He was also the MVP of the 2004 National League Championship Series, helping his team reach the World Series, where they were swept by the Boston Red Sox.

2005: Most Valuable Player

The 2005 season saw Pujols establish career highs in walks and stolen bases, while leading his team in almost every offensive category. He finished batting .330/.430/.609, with 41 home runs (including his 200th career homer), a grand slam, 117 RBIs, 97 walks, and 16 stolen bases (leading all major league first basemen). However, due to continually nagging leg injuries, he finished with a career-low 38 doubles.

The Cardinals were eliminated by the Houston Astros 4 games to 2 in the National League Championship Series, but Pujols hit one of the most memorable home runs in modern day baseball history in game 5 of that series as the Cardinals were only one out from elimination. With the Astros leading 4-2 with two outs in the ninth inning, David Eckstein singled. The next batter, Jim Edmonds, was walked. Pujols then hit a home run off of Brad Lidge that landed on the landmark train tracks in the back of Minute Maid Park. Those three runs were the deciding factor in the game, as the Cardinals ended up winning the game 5-4, sending the series back to St. Louis. [3]

After the season, Pujols received his first National League MVP award, underscoring his critical role in keeping the injury-plagued Cardinals on track throughout the season.

In 2005, John Dewan noted in The Fielding Bible that no first baseman was better at digging balls out of the dirt than Pujols. Pujols saved 42 bad throws by his fielders in 2005. Derrek Lee was second with 23. At the same time, Pujols shared the major league lead in errors for a first baseman, with 14.


Pujols moved to Kansas City, Missouri from the Dominican Republic at age 16 with his father. He graduated from Fort Osage High School in Independence, Missouri in 1998, and attended Maple Woods Community College on a baseball scholarship. He later graduated and entered the MLB, joining the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols married his wife, Deidre, on January 1, 2000. They have three children, Isabella (Deidre's daughter, adopted by Albert), Albert Jr., and Sophia. Albert and his wife are active in the cause of people with Down syndrome, as Isabella was born with this condition. In 2005 (appropriately on May 5, which is written as 5/5/05, '5' being Albert's uniform number), they launched the Pujols Family Foundation, which is dedicated to "the love, care and development of people with Down syndrome and their families", as well as helping the poor in the Dominican Republic.[7] Pujols and his wife are very active Christians; as the foundation's website says, "In the Pujols family, God is first. Everything else is a distant second."[8] More information on the foundation can be found at its website: He has taken part ownership in Patrick's restaurant at Westport Plaza in Maryland Heights, Missouri. The remodeled restaurant was reopened as Pujols 5 on August 30, 2006.[9]

Pujols is close friends with second baseman Placido Polanco, a former teammate with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols is godfather to Polanco's 3-year-old son, Ismael.[10] Placido was a second baseman on the 2006 Detroit Tigers team which lost to the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series.

On February 7, 2007, Pujols became a U.S. citizen,[11] scoring a perfect 100 on his citizenship test.[12]

On April 24, 2007, Upper Deck Authenticated announced it had signed Pujols to an exclusive autographed memorabilia agreement.


* Six-time All-Star (2001, 2003-07)
* Pujols has finished in the top four in the voting for MVP of the National League every year of his career, winning once (2005) and coming in second three times (2002, 2003 & 2006).
* National League Batting Champion, 2003
* Only Ralph Kiner hit more home runs (215) in his first five seasons (2001-05) than Albert (201).
* Named to Major League Baseball's Latino Legends Team in 2005 as the starting first baseman.
* First Cardinal home run in new Busch Stadium[13]
* Became the 35th player to hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats, and the 20th batter to hit four home runs in four consecutive plate appearances, on April 16 and 17, 2006.
* Holds the record for most home runs in the month of April with 14 in 2006, tied with Alex Rodriguez, 2007.
* Became the fastest player in Major League history to reach 19 home runs in a season, doing so on May 13, 2006.
* Became the third-fastest, after Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, to reach 25 home runs in a season, doing so on May 29, 2006.
* Became first player in MLB history to hit 30 home runs in each of his first seven seasons (2001-07).
* Became the 16th batter to hit three home runs in a game twice in the same season in 2006 (04.16 & 09.03).
* 20 of his 49 home runs accounted for the game-winning RBI in 2006, breaking Willie Mays' single-season record set in 1962.[14][15]
* 2006 World Series Champion.


* Rookie of the Year, 2001
* Three-time Silver Slugger (2001, 2003-04) (Note: Pujols has won a Silver Slugger at three different positions: First Base, Third Base, and Left Field).
* National League Player of the Month for both May and June 2003 and for April 2006
* Hank Aaron Award, 2003
* TSN Player of the Year, 2003
* NLCS MVP, 2004
* National League MVP, 2005
* Gold Glove Award at first base, 2006
* Roberto Clemente Award, 2007

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