Saturday, September 16, 2006

USA Today on Albert Pujols

Mike Lopresti wrote this fine article.
We have here Albert Pujols' biography, and there must be a mistake. He's still only 26 years old? Hasn't he been driving in runs for the St. Louis Cardinals since dial telephones?

Ryan Howard was National League rookie of the year last season. He's 26. Dan Uggla will probably be rookie of the year this season. He's 26.

Pujols has been a phenom since ... forever, it seems. It is hard to remember the St. Louis Cardinals or the All-Star Game without him. And he's two months younger than Howard and two months older than Uggla.[...]

The thought occurs that if he stays healthy, and he stays hungry and he stays on task, one day Pujols might leave tire tracks all over the baseball annals.

What we have here is a young man in a hurry ... through the record books. It is not just his talent or his consistency that seems without restraint. It is where he might be headed with them.

Pujols has 246 career home runs.

Hank Aaron, the all-time leader, did not have 246 home runs at 26. (219 in 7 seasons)

Pujols has scored 735 runs.

Ricky Henderson, the all-time scorer, did not have 735 runs at 26. (632 in 7 seasons)

Pujols has 1,134 hits.

Pete Rose, the all-time hit collector, did not have 1,134 hits at 26. (799 in 5 seasons)

Pujols has 741 RBI, and should be near 750 by the end of the month.

Aaron, the all-time RBI man, did not have 750 at 26. (743 in 7 seasons)

Know the last time Pujols did not drive in 100 runs? When he played most of the season in Peoria. The pitchers of the major leagues have never stopped him. Have not come close. He has been more reliable than ticket price increases.

You wonder where the 401 players are who were drafted ahead of him in 1999.

So sometime next decade, they may have to save a lot of Albert Pujols' baseballs for Cooperstown. Meantime, he's busy trying to win another pennant and National League MVP.

Philadelphia's Howard is the main MVP challenger. His home run total is nearing the borders of Ruthville and Marisland. His RBI number can hardly be seen with the naked eye by the rest of the field.

But then, the Cardinals will win their division comfortably and everyone knows that without Pujols, they'd turn into the Milwaukee Brewers.

So a vote for Pujols would be no reason to blush, no matter how many rockets Howard hits.

He remains a pitcher's worst nightmare at the critical moment. Four times this season, Pujols has delivered walk-off winning hits. That makes 10 times the past four years.

Eighteen times this season, he has driven in the eventual winning run with a home run. The last guy to do better was Willie Mays, 44 years ago.

Pujols was out of the lineup for more than two weeks, and there are thoughts he has never felt completely healthy since. But he is second in the league in home runs, third in RBI, fifth in average. What would he be doing at 100%?
I italicized the numbers of what they had and how many seasons they played in which they were 26 or younger.

Also, closer Jason Isringhausen is done for the season.

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