May 4, 2018, five years ago today: Albert Pujols of the L.A. Angels collects his 3000th career hit in a 5-0 win at Seattle’s Safeco Field. Pujols did it in a very un-Pujols way, with a broken-bat single off Mariners pitcher Mike Leake. He was the 32nd member of the 3,000-hit club but just the fourth player to get there while also slugging 600 home runs, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez. If there was any doubt about his Hall of Fame candidacy, 25 of the previous members of the 3,000-hit club were already enshrined in Cooperstown.
Pujols’ production had slowed as he reached his upper 30s, but his first 10 seasons as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals stand as one of the greatest decades ever for a batter, as he hit .331 while averaging 41 home runs, 123 RBIs and 190 hits. Pujols won three National League MVP awards and finished second in the voting four other times. He played in three World Series with the Cardinals, winning two of them.
The last memory of Pujols might be the best, though. His star had faded in his time with the L.A. Dodgers, so he was signed by St. Louis last year so he could go full-circle and play the final season of his career with the Cardinals. And back home with the Cards, he came to life again. Pujols was 21 home runs away from 700 when the season started, but he had it only 12, 5, 17 and 6 homers in the previous four seasons. In early August, 700 still seemed out of reach. It was then that Pujols caught fire.
Capping a remarkable surge over the final two months of his career, Pujols hit the 699th and 700th home runs of his career on September 22 in the Cardinals’ 11-0 win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Pujols ended up with 703 homers, fourth in baseball history behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)