Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols hit his 600th career home run, making him the ninth player in history to reach that milestone, while much of the country was asleep late Saturday night.
Pujols connected off Minnesota Twins ace Ervin Santana for a grand slam in the fourth inning of a game played at Anaheim with a starting time of 10:07 p.m. ET. That capped off a pursuit of home run No. 600 that generated almost no national buzz.
Many have speculated that baseball is suffering from home run fatigue and that they are being hit at so high a rate that they have lost their appeal. Nonetheless, the lack of attention was a disappointment to many who have either been teammates with Pujols or played against him during his spectacular 17-year career.
“What’s making me mad is the fact that not a lot of people are really talking about it too much,” retired outfielder Jeff Francouer told TuneIn. “I’ve seen a couple of articles on it and I’m like, these people have no idea how good this guy is. As good as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and these guys are, they’re still 450 home runs away from where this guy is.
“For him to do it as long as he has, it’s unbelievable. Now people act like he can’t even play and last year he had like 35 or something and drove in a hundred. You know, his average is not there, but he did it for so long. This is a guy that we should celebrate the things that he did, and not so much the last year where he’s kind of limping in.”
Pujols, 37, is hitting .249/.299/.410 with nine home runs in 51 games this year. He is 124 hits away from 3,000 for his career with 2,876.
The three-time National League MVP has been in a steady decline since signing a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels in free agency after helping lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title in 2011.
Pujols hit .328/.420/.617 in 11 seasons with the Cardinals, averaging 43 home runs and 127 RBIs per 162 games. In six seasons with the Angels, he has hit .265/.323/.469 and averaged 33 homers and 112 RBIs per 162 games.
He also has four years and $114 million left on his contract beyond this season.
“Albert is still a dangerous hitter,” said a scout from an NL team. “It’s just that he’s being paid like a superstar and he isn’t one anymore. He’s the type of hitter you’ve still got to be careful with because he’ll crush mistakes but you don’t draw up your whole gameplan around him anymore.”
By John Perrotto