Albert Pujols returns to St. Louis for final season

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The Cardinals have signed 42-year-old and former Cardinal Albert Pujols to a one-year $2.5 million dollar deal. This will be Pujols’ 12th year with the organization after a brief hiatus.

Originally born José Alberto Pujols Alcántara in the Dominican Republic, Albert Pujols is a first baseman and designated hitter who has played for the St. Louis Cardinals and in Los Angeles. He played for both the Angels and the Dodgers for a brief time in 2021. His biggest impact wasn’t in Los Angeles at all but in the city where it all started: St. Louis.

Pujols was drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft. Overall pick of 402 went to the Cardinals and just two years later, Pujols joined the major league roster. In the 2001 season, Pujols played in 161 games, only missing one. In almost 600 at bats, he hit with a .329 batting average. He hit 37 home runs and 130 RBIs in his first season. These statistics gave him an on base percentage plus slugging (OPS) of 1.013. The average MLB player hits with a .800 OPS.

This was just the start for Pujols. He played an additional 10 seasons for the Cardinals from 2002 until 2011. During his 11 years in St. Louis, the Cardinals won two World Series and Pujols became a nine-time All-Star. On top of that, Pujols won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2001, two gold gloves, three Most Valuable Player awards and six Silver Slugger awards. Pujols also had 1705 plate appearances and accumulated over 2000 hits, 445 homeruns and 1329 RBI’s.

It wasn’t just the statistics Pujols put up on the Cardinals but the relationships he made with teammates. Just three years after Pujols started playing for the Cardinals, another long-time player joined the team: current catcher Yadier Molina, who played eight sessions with Pujols after joining in 2004. The next season, in 2005, pitcher Adam Wainwright would make his MLB debut and the power trio was born.

For seven seasons and two World Series, Pujols, Molina and Wainwright would be teammates and friends.

In the 2006 season, Adam Wainwright threw the last pitch of the World Series, bringing the Cardinals their first World Series ring since 1982. This may not seem like a super long time for a team to win a World Series but the Cardinals have the most World Series wins of any other team in the National League, with 11 rings since their first in 1926.

This 90th anniversary of the team’s first World Series showed interesting numbers from the trio.  Wainwright would only pitch 75 innings in 2006 with a 3.12 ERA. He was a bullpen arm who would become a starter in the next season, pitching 202 innings. Molina would play in 129 games and catch in the World Series.

The star of the trio in 2006 would, however, be Pujols. Pujols was an All-Star, voted second overall for the MVP and won a gold glove. Pujols also had an OPS above 1.100 and a video-game-like .331 batting average.

In the 2011 World Series run, Adam Wainwright could not play due to an elbow surgery which took an entire season to recover from..

Molina would hit above average for the first time in his career, make the All-Star team, win his fourth gold glove, and be 21st in MVP voting. Although Pujols had a down season, he still had a .906 OPS, a .299 batting average and 37 home runs. He would also be fifth in MVP voting.

Pujols had a big impact on and off the field. Pujols created the Pujols Family Foundation in 2005. The not-for-profit agency’s mission statement is “to promote awareness, provide hope and meet tangible needs for children and families who live with Down Syndrome. To improve the standard of living and quality of life for impoverished people in the Dominican Republic through education, medical relief, and tangible goods. To provide extraordinary experiences for children with disabilities and/or life threatening illness.”Pujols came back to St. Louis for different events for the Pujols Family Foundation even after leaving to play in Los Angeles. Now, however, he is coming back to play for the Cardinals. For their eighth season together, Molina and Pujols have said this will be their final year in baseball. Wainwright has not announced similar plans to retire.

These three players will be Cardinals for the rest of their lives. Molina has only played for the Cardinals, Pujols left but came back for his final season and as of now Wainwright has only been a Cardinal.

In conclusion, Pujols coming back to the Cardinals is good for two reasons. The first reason being he can still hit well against left-handed pitching and the sentimental purposes behind the signing. It is a low risk signing which should make a lot of St. Louis fans feel nostalgic.

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