Albert Pujols’ career has been nothing if not a long, winding road.
It started on the highest of highs; Pujols’ first ten seasons in the majors are up there with the greatest individual stretches in major league history. From 2001-2011, Pujols accrued 86.6 bWAR, an average about about 8 bWAR a season. He was essentially an MVP-caliber player every year of his first spell with the Cardinals.
Then, there were the troughs. Pujols’ career in Los Angeles was a massive failure. Injuries zapped away any remnants of the athletic freak he once was. Poor performances were common.
It seemed Pujols was all but finished as a major-league level hitter. But since returning to Busch Stadium for his swan song season, Pujols has found life. Suiting up as a platoon hitter, Pujols has been mashing. He has 19 home runs in 313 plate appearances, reprising his status as one of the game’s great mashers of left-handed pitching.
All these dingers leave the general public wanting more. Yes, Pujols is approaching 700 homers. But with the way he’s hitting, it feels as if he’s got more to offer.
Pujols’ late-career renaissance isn’t changing his career plans, though. In March, Pujols indicated that he would be stepping away from the game at the conclusion of the 2022 season. He has since reaffirmed that commitment, even amid his post-All-Star break slugging showcase.
So, why is Pujols retiring? The Sporting News has you covered.
Why is Albert Pujols retiring?
At 42 years old, Pujols is the oldest player in baseball. He’s been in and around the major league game since 1999. And, simply put, he’s ready for his next step.
“This is it for me,” Albert Pujols says. “This is my last round.”
— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) March 28, 2022
Pujols’ return to St. Louis warmed the hearts of baseball fans from across the country. The prospect of “The Machine” joining longtime teammates — and fellow Cardinals legends — Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright for one last hurrah was Hollywood-esque.
For all the optics surrounding Pujols’ return, “The Machine” has repeatedly indicated that his sole purpose for coming back to St. Louis was to help the Cardinals capture another championship:
Albert Pujols discusses nearing 700 career home runs as tonight’s series begins at Petco Park: pic.twitter.com/aOQXTTvNBj
— 97.3 The Fan (@973TheFanSD) September 20, 2022
What I’m chasing, you know what, is another ring. That’s what I’m chasing for the city of St. Louis and for our fans, and that’s why I signed back for this year.
Despite his recent power surge, Pujols has repeatedly indicated that this year would be his last.
“I’m still going to retire, no matter whether I end up hitting 693, 696, 700, whatever,’’ Pujols told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “I don’t get caught up in numbers. If you were going to tell me 22 years ago that I would be this close, I would have told you that you’re freakin’ crazy. My career has been amazing.’’
He also indicated that his decision was final. Nothing will bring him back to the field after 2022.
“No, I’ve had enough,” he told Nightengale last month. “I’m glad I made the announcement this was it when I signed. Really, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
It seems Pujols has hit the marks he has hoped for in his major league career. At 42 years old, Pujols seems content with riding off into the sunset.
Will Albert Pujols hit 700 homers?
As of Sept. 20, Pujols has 698 homers. The Cardinals have 14 games left this season, plenty of time for Pujols to reach that vaunted No. 700.
Cards manager Oliver Marmol has indicated that he would like to see Pujols get to 700 dingers. However, he’s tended to use Pujols in a platoon role this season, primarily matching him up against left-handed pitchers. Marmol’s decision is paying real dividends; Pujols has a .356/.408/.760 slash line against lefties. That’s a 1.168 OPS, over a 100 points higher than Aaron Judge’s OPS against southpaws.
Pujols is raking. Per SN’s projection model, Pujols has a 40.9 percent chance of getting to dinger No. 700 if he continues to hit at the same pace he has this season.
That probability rises to 62.2 percent if he plays in all of St. Louis’ remaining games. The odds seem ever in Prince Albert’s favor at the moment.