Albert Pujols’ memorable return to Busch Stadium in St. Louis came to a close in a fitting way on Sunday night.
Pujols’ Los Angeles Angels played a three-game series with the Cardinals, marking the former three-time league MVP’s first time playing in St. Louis since leaving the team in free agency. He got a tribute video and several ovations during the first game of the series on Friday night. On Saturday, he received an ovation after a homer.
Then on Sunday, to cap off the weekend and Angels’ 6-4 victory over the Cardinals, Pujols swapped jerseys with his former teammate, Yadier Molina. The love between them was evident as they made the trade:
Find someone who would give you the shirt right off his back. pic.twitter.com/Sw5yAhPIG3
— MLB (@MLB) June 24, 2019
Molina began as a rookie for the Cardinals in 2003, while Pujols was a rookie in 2001. They went to the playoffs five times together, reaching the World Series three times and winning it all twice. They have a lot of history together and clearly feel fondly about one another.
If Friday night didn’t make clear that all was forgiven between St. Louis Cardinals fans and Albert Pujols, Saturday’s game made it abundantly clear.
In his second game in St. Louis since his departure after the 2011 season, Pujols hit a home run for the Los Angeles Angels and received a standing ovation from the crowd at Busch Stadium. The ovation was so overwhelming that Pujols gave the crowd a curtain call after rounding the bases.
You will almost never see a visiting player get a reception like this one, with the crowd rising to their feet as soon as the ball was in the air. Circumstances are unique when it’s Pujols and Cardinal fans, though. He received a hero’s welcome on Friday night, and the reception that he got Saturday after delivering a home run was even more overwhelming.
Albert Pujols received plenty of love from Cardinals fans in his return to Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Pujols on Friday played at Busch Stadium for the first time since leaving the Cardinals to sign with the Angels in free agency after the 2011 season. Prior to the start of the game, the Cardinals played him a tribute, and a lengthy standing ovation ensued.
Here is the tribute video:
11 seasons. Countless memories. Thanks for giving us a front row seat! pic.twitter.com/xMcZTHS8mr
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) June 22, 2019
And here’s a look at the ovation:
Standing ovation No. 2 as a pregame video tribute to Pujols is played. We might set a record tonight for standing ovations. pic.twitter.com/h61rRluS8V
— B.J. Rains (@BJRains) June 22, 2019
The love for Pujols was continual. He also received a standing ovation as he headed onto the field for warmups prior to the game too.
— B.J. Rains (@BJRains) June 21, 2019
Then the ovation was the loudest when he came to the plate in the top of the first inning. Catcher Yadier Molina, his former teammate, even gave him a big hug.
— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) June 22, 2019
Pujols flied out, but the feeling in the park was special.
The love from the Cardinals fans was well-deserved. Pujols spent 11 seasons with the Cardinals, winning three NL MVP Awards and two World Series. During his time with St. Louis, he established himself as the best player in the league and got off to one of the most impressive starts to a career in MLB history.
Some Cardinals fans were upset that Pujols chose to leave St. Louis in free agency, but the stats show it all worked out well for the franchise. He gave the Cardinals his best seasons and never came close to replicating that success with the Angels. He was a career .328 hitter with the Cardinals and has batted .258 with the Angels. His OPS has gone from 1.037 to .767 as well.
Though their careers aren’t yet over, there are a number of MLB players who have likely already done enough to punch their ticket to the Hall of Fame after they quit playing. There are other young players who have started promisingly, but a handful of veterans have really stood out and put together resumes that will be hard to deny when their names come up on the Hall of Fame ballot after their retirement. Some are still producing at a high level, while some are not, but all of them should be treasured as long as they are still entertaining us with their talents.
Here are ten active MLB players who warrant strong Hall of Fame consideration — if they haven’t all but clinched it already.
10. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees
Sabathia has a clear Hall of Fame case, but it’s a somewhat murky one. His peak was certainly good enough, but his 3.69 career ERA is somewhat high for a Hall of Famer. And, despite some memorable postseason exploits, he doesn’t have the playoff resume to stand out, either, and only won the Cy Young once. Still, it’s easy to see how Sabathia gets in. His longevity and consistency ensure he should get to 250 wins, and he’s already surpassed 3,000 strikeouts. Plus, his history of clutch pitching — including his stretch run with Milwaukee — could play on voters’ minds.
The fan who got Albert Pujols’ milestone 2,000th RBI ball on Thursday failed to get it authenticated, according to a report.
Pujols hit a solo home run in the top of the third inning of the Los Angeles Angels’ game against the Detroit Tigers to make it 6-0. His homer gave him 2,000 career RBIs, making him just the third player in MLB history to reach that milestone since the statistic was tracked beginning in 1920, joining Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez.
Mashing his way to history. pic.twitter.com/PXbZavZaOF
— MLB (@MLB) May 9, 2019
The ball made for one heck of a piece of memorabilia for the lucky fan who obtained it. But according to Angels reporter Jeff Fletcher, the fan declined to meet with either team. Even worse, the fan did not take the proper steps to authenticate the ball, which could significantly hurt his chances of receiving maximum value if he were to sell it.
Albert Pujols will not get the ball from his 2,000th RBI. The fan left the stadium, turning down all kinds of offers from the Tigers and Angels. He can't sell it now, because it wasn't authenticated.
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) May 9, 2019
MLB began an authentication program in 2001 to combat the proliferation of phony autographs and memorabilia. They have authenticators at every game who review items to say whether they have been game-used. Home run balls like Pujols’ are marked with a hologram and given a six-digit, two-letter authentication code to be identified. Pujols’ 2,000th RBI ball will not have those designations.
The fan who caught the ball plans to keep it for his child, according to Jeff Riger.
Albert Pujols 2000th RBI ball. Guy who caught it said he’s not giving it up, instead he’s giving it to his kid that will be born in a couple weeks. I told him to sell it back to Pujols so he can give his kid that $$$ instead. pic.twitter.com/3N1FtMdqb9
— Jeff Riger (@riger1984) May 9, 2019
Eli Hyde, the guy who caught the ball said the people who surrounded him looking to acquire the ball said they would not authenticate it if he left the ball park with it rendering it worthless. Hyde was not happy with how the negotiators went about the conversation.
— Jeff Riger (@riger1984) May 9, 2019
— Kent French (@KentFrench) May 9, 2019
Maybe the fan is preparing a clever ransom note to get what he wants in return for the ball. His approach to this point seems to be risky.
Anthony Swarzak helped Albert Pujols move up the all-time RBI chart, and also added a Hall of Fame reaction to the ball being hit out of the park.
The Seattle Mariners reliever served up a homer to Pujols in the 9th inning of Saturday night’s 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels. He managed to deliver the pitch and immediately go into a 180 degree head grab upon contact. I think it’s fair to say that he knew it was gone right away.
Albert Pujols passed Babe Ruth to take fifth place on the all-time RBI list (1,993) with this homer
— SI MLB (@si_mlb) April 21, 2019
Swarzak did register his third save of the season despite the big blast, which was Pujols’ third of the season.
I’m now looking forward to the Pitching Ninja doing an overlay of this pitch with a different Swarzak offering to see how good his pitch tunneling was including the finish.
Albert Pujols is looking to prove that he can still be a productive player even as he approaches his 40th birthday, and the slugger says the knee injury that prematurely ended his 2018 season will not stand in the way this year.
On Sunday, Pujols met with the media and said he expects his knee to be fully recovered in time for Opening Day.
Albert Pujols met with the media today. Said his knee is healthy and he will be ready for Opening Day. He isn't sure if he will play in Cactus League games right away but has plenty of time to get ready for the season.
— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) February 17, 2019
Pujols underwent arthroscopic surgery in late August, and he was ruled out for the remainder of the year with the Angels not in playoff contention. He batted .245 with 19 home runs, 64 RBI and an OPS of just .700 — the second-lowest total of his career — in 117 games.
Anything the Angels get from Pujols is essentially a bonus at this point, as his massive contract has been a bust for the team and they still owe him a whopping $87 million over the next three years. He seemed optimistic about his physical condition heading into last year, but that didn’t pan out. Most Angels fans want the team to move on from Pujols so they can develop other players.