Albert Pujols is seeking to become the ninth player in MLB history to hit 600 career home runs.
Only no one seems to notice.
Yes, in perhaps the most understated home run chase in the history of the game, Pujols – a three-time MVP, a two-time World Series champion, and 10-time All-Star – has 599 career home runs. Nevertheless, his pursuit of 600 has generated minimal buzz, even in Los Angeles.
“I’ll give you two answers,” MLB.com’s Richard Justice said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “One is that we’ve sort of become immune to the record book in the PED era (because of) guys like A-Rod and Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Those numbers used to be sacred for baseball fans, and they’re not anymore. Having said all of that, I hope people understand what we’re seeing is one of the great players in the history of the game.”
Pujols, 37, is hitting just .254 with eight homers this season, but he was once a lock for .330, 40 bombs, and 120 RBIs. Amazingly, he has never struck out 100 times in any of his 17 seasons. In fact, he’s struck out more than 75 times just three times in his career.
“You never see him lunge. You never seen him look off-balance,” Justice said. “He is one of the great players ever. I know he’s not going to be comfortable with the celebration (when he gets 600) because he was raised in the Mark McGwire-Tony La Russa school of baseball (where) it’s about the team. But he deserves to be celebrated, and I am going to be happy for him when it happens. The sadness is 600 doesn’t mean what it once meant.”
Still, Pujols is likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer, not to mention one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game.
“When you look inside the numbers, the analytics, you could make the case that Lou Gehrig was a better first baseman than Albert Pujols,” Justice said. “You can’t definitively make the case that anybody else – Eddie Murray, Jeff Bagwell, Jimmie Foxx , anybody you name – was better (than Pujols). That’s how great the guy is.”
While Pujols is past his prime, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is approaching his. The 25-year-old is hitting .329 with a .431 OBP, 17 homers, and 38 RBIs.
Is Judge the AL MVP?
“Mike Trout’s injury certainly helps that,” Justice said. “If it ended today, he would be the Rookie of the Year and the MVP. He plays for the Yankees, the Yankees are in first place, and he has been unbelievable. I would say my hometown guy, Carlos Correa, is coming fast on the outside lane, but (Judge) is a transcendent player. He’s going to change the Yankees.”