For those wondering what the Steroid Era has done to the casual baseball fan, look no further than Max Kellerman.
As Albert Pujols chases his 700th career home run, sitting at 697 on the season (a number that, frankly, would have seemed unachievable early this year), the ESPN host decided to weigh in on the pursuit. In doing so, he appeared to imply Pujols — who has 18 homers this year compared to last year’s 12 — is boosting his power via artificial means.
“It is amazing how Pujols, who was in steady decline for years, suddenly it’s like he’s discovered the Fountain of Youth…” Kellerman said on “This Just In” on Monday. “…He’s killing the ball! Bartender, I’ll have whatever he’s having! … How does a player turn back the clock? I guess it’s willpower and practice.”
— That’s A Winner Podcast (@ThatsAWinnerPod) September 12, 2022
It is abundantly clear what Kellerman is trying to say here, and he must have faced some resistance after saying it, because he walked it back on Tuesday.
“We showed video of Albert Pujols as he chases 700 home runs,” Kellerman said. “I commented that he seemed to be hitting the ball much better than he has in a long time. Some, including Albert, inferred that my curiosity as to how he was achieving this recent level of success could only mean that he was benefiting from something other than a lot of hard work, practice and his natural ability. For that, I apologize to Albert and the Cardinals’ organization.”
— That’s A Winner Podcast (@ThatsAWinnerPod) September 13, 2022
Pujols has faced accusations of cheating his entire career, including a bizarrely pervasive rumor that he is older than he presents. In 2013, Pujols sued former player Jack Clark for saying he knew “for a fact” Pujols was taking steroids. Clark’s representation would later say Clark only had the information secondhand and the lawsuit was dropped, although Clark did double down and challenge Pujols to dueling polygraphs.
Pujols has been used situationally to great effect by Oliver Marmol in the second half of the year, but as long as baseball players are chasing records, there will be those who cast doubt upon them. Pujols, for his part, has 20 games left in the year to try to join Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth in one of the most hallowed clubs in baseball: The 700 Club.