In fact, it seemed to be on life support from, say … 2016 to 2021? Is that an overreach? Is that fair?
Perhaps our perspective is a little different than most, considering how closely Orange County borders our baseball sphere, but to the country at large, Pujols’ light faded significantly once he took the money and left St. Louis.
Who remembers his 40 home runs at age 35 in 2015? Very few people? Got it.
So when the Dodgers picked him up in mid-May of 2021 following his unceremonious slicing from the Angels’ roster, it was fair to view this not as the culmination of some grand plan, but as a shot in the dark. After all, LA also picked up Yoshi Tsutsugo that same weekend, an equally knee-jerk move to provide more depth and pop in the outfield.
Of course … now it looks like a stroke of genius. Pujols hasn’t only provided a solid presence against lefties, but he’s mashed them in vintage fashion. Pujols hasn’t only “taken advantage” of his, say, 10 at-bats per month, but he’s filled in admirably during Max Muncy’s injury absence.
And Pujols hasn’t just made the Angels question their decision; he’s rejuvenated his baseball life.
Dodgers star Albert Pujols is rubbing it in the Angels’ faces.
Most fun he’s had in a while! Of course, we completely understand. Even if Pujols was languishing on the roster while the Dodgers ripped off a run of victories, that would be more fun than sitting in Anaheim playing out the string yet again.
But no; Pujols is bashing while the Dodgers succeed, which in turn has made the 41-year-old reevaluate whether the end is actually near.
At one point, it seemed like an absolute certainty the slugger would retire when his mega-contract with the LAA ended. So certain, in fact, that his wife outright tweeted a tribute to the end of his career before backtracking once word started to circulate.
Now? Not so much. With every smile, the desire to retire recedes a little bit further. Sorry, Angels!
Most of Pujols’ sterling career has wrapped up. His goals have largely been met. Stuck at 673 homers after Monday’s game, it seems unlikely he’ll be able to reach 700 no matter what his next steps are, considering he won’t be guaranteed enough playing time at any destination to mash 27 dingers.
All that’s left to do is be joyful every day and do a job that’s coming more naturally now than it has in several years.
Pujols somehow hasn’t slugged above .500 since 2012. He hasn’t posted an OPS+ higher than the league average mark of 100 since 2016. He hasn’t slugged above his current mark with the Dodgers since … well, since before he ever put pen to paper with Arte Moreno.
When Pujols left the Angels earlier this year, it was much easier to envision his career dissipating in a puff of smoke than to see a rebound coming, especially not across the freeway on a franchise without a DH.
When you’re having fun, though, things can change in a hurry, and Pujols’ infectious smile and unique set of life lessons have been invaluable in the pursuit of a repeat.
Oh, and his bat, too. His bat’s been pretty key. Sorry again, Anaheim!