Babe. Mickey. Willie. Junior. Hank. Albert.
You know you are an icon when people know you by one name. Last night, Albert Pujols became Albert.
He hit two home runs to reach the magical, unfathomable, historic number 700.
Babe and Hank were the only two other players to have ever reached 700 by themselves. Bonds had help.
A-Rod, who also needed help, fell four home runs short. Willie missed it by forty. Junior by seventy.
But last night, Albert made it. When the season started, it was highly improbably. At the All-Star break, it was highly improbable.
Coming into 2022, which he said would be his last season, Albert needed twenty-one more homers to reach 700. He hit seventeen last season, with both Los Angeles teams. The Cardinals signed him for a farewell tour, bringing him back to where he put up Hall of Fame numbers for the first eleven seasons of his career, winning Rookie of the Year, three MVPs, six Silver Sluggers awards, and snagging nine All-Star Game appearances.
By the All-Star break, Albert had only six home runs. Hitting only .228 with an OPS of only .676, he wasn’t playing regularly and wasn’t really making a difference. He was there for old time’s sake only. He was a museum piece.
Then, he caught fire. After the break, he’s hitting .315 with an elite OPS of 1.076, and after his two last night, has fifteen second-half home runs. He is back to being the Albert he was for all those years when he was the best right-handed hitter of his generation.
It was fitting that, after ten mostly un-Albert like seasons in LA, he comes back home and makes history in the uniform he will be going to the Hall of Fame in. The Cardinals.