Pujols’ record chase highlights epic career

The greatness of Albert Pujols has
been well documented within the world of baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals
slugger has been turning heads since his rookie season in 2001, compiling three
Most Valuable Player awards and a World Series title.

But what could become his greatest
individual accomplishment and potentially one of the ultimate achievements in
baseball history has gone relatively unnoticed. Pujols has a legitimate shot to
not only become the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski
in 1967 but, in the process, could become the first player in major league
history to lead his league in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, hits,
runs, walks, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

In typical fashion the native of
the Dominican Republic has bene low-key about the accolade.

“It’s a special milestone, but I
don’t play for numbers,” Pujols said. ”I would never think about the Triple
Crown. You know why? Because I’ve been doing the same thing that I’ve been
doing all year long. I’m seeing the ball better now. But this isn’t about
chasing something. This is about winning and trying to get ourselves a spot in
the playoffs.”

On one hand a Triple Crown would
definitively hail Pujols as the greatest hitter of his generation. Yet if the
Triple Crown chase doesn’t work out Pujols, 30, will be on the hunt for another
mark. The Cardinals first basemen should be approaching 600 career home runs
around the same age (35) Alex Rodriguez was. Like Rodriguez, he has a very good
shot at eclipsing the all-time mark currently held by Barry Bonds at 762.

Bonds and Rodriguez, who are among
only seven players to reach the 600 career home run mark, have both had their
names tied to performance-enhancing drugs. Pujols meanwhile has joined the
likes of Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Thome as players who have put up sensational
home run numbers in the wrong era as none of those three have been linked to
steroids.

Griffey amassed 630 career home
runs, while Thome is at 581. Barring injuries, Thome and Pujols will reach 600
and expand that list to nine. Interestingly Manny Ramirez, whose total of 554
is good for 14th on the all-time list, will likely join this club as well.

This means that seven of the 10
players destined to reach the milestone will have started their careers
post-1985, assuming Thome, Pujols and Ramirez all get there. There have been
more players admitted into this club in the past 25 years than in every other
season before that combined. And none of them have been celebrated in the way
baseball fans did so for the only other three to accomplish the sacred feat in
Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Ultimately Pujols is not bothered
by the hunt for the Triple Crown or the all-time home run title. Instead he
prefers to remain humble and enjoy playing professional baseball.

“It’s pretty special, obviously.
It’s a really special milestone that you reach. But I don’t play for numbers.
My goal as a little boy was to try to do whatever I can to be a professional.”

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