The clock ticking loudly against the backdrop of Albert Pujols’ legendary career has, in recent weeks, become a steady drumbeat, providing the propulsion and momentum that propels his stride, even as a sport. His days on the field also get shorter.
He, as always, is no machine, just Albert. And even outside the significant commercial and nostalgic boost he provided to the St. Louis Cardinals this season, he’s also been a shrewd baseball extra who’s improving as far as the drag of the longest months.
“I guess that’s why I’m here,” Pujol asked on Wednesday night about his role as a stabilizer. “They believe I’m capable of helping this organization, and I’m ready to hit wherever they put me in the lineup.”
In Toronto, he was fourth, playing two nights in a row at first base while he did so. With Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt unable to enter Canada, manager Oliver Marmol needed a confident, calm center to build his team. Even as he admitted that keeping Pujol in a clean sweep against two strict rights might not sound good on paper, Marmol commented on the difficulty of the game being played between ears.
He didn’t need anyone to be an arenado or a goldsmith. He needed someone for himself, without any hesitation. Pujol was a perfect match.
“That’s what you’re hoping, will he step up and be able to take us to a time when we didn’t have Goldie and Nolan,” Marmol said. “He did exactly that. He knew what was on the line, and we had to depend on him.
“He’s been in the game for a few decades because he knows how to do it.”
After a rough June, in which he went 6-38 without any home runs, Pujols is back to life in July. Entering the first match of Friday’s series at National Park, he is batting with .348.630 slugging percentage this month. This included three home runs and four doubles, with the doubles matching their totals from the rest of the season.
climbing a ladder
In the process, he has continued to climb the leaderboard and pass through legends, surpassing Rogers Hornsby for the fourth all-time hit as a Cardinal and the third all-time Stan Musical in extra base hits in a career—any For, too, baseball across.
“It’s not about being behind or in front of those people,” Pujols said. “My job, every day, for 20 years I’ve been doing this is to help every organization I’ve played for. At the end of the day, if I hit those numbers, it’s great, It’s a bonus. But if I don’t, I feel like I’ve enjoyed my career so much, so many (many) blessings that God has given me, so I don’t really focus on it.”
From a business standpoint, it’s hard to imagine a free agent signing that could be more successful than the one-year, $2.5 million deal that Pujols signed in the middle of spring training. The admiring Busch Stadium crowds have turned out to see him throughout the season, and as he makes his final tour around the league, fans arriving are filling up and then getting up from seats for the same reason.
Toronto happy with love
Both games in Toronto were briefly interrupted by extended standing ovations, the second of which was longer than the first. Pujol, of course, never played in Toronto. In residence in the American League West, they did not tour more than once each season. And yet, for one last, brief moment in the presence of this particular greatness, Blue Jays fans made it a point to deliver a touching salute.
Even the sometimes irritable Pujols lowered the tone of his voice, as he said, “That’s great, you know?”
“To come back here, for 22 years I’ve had a series once or twice during the season,” he said. “It means a lot to have fans appreciate your career and how they respect you. But you still have to go out there and past that, leave it behind and just focus on the game. ,
That focus is dialed in. In fact, Pujols barely bowed when Adam Wainwright tried his best to maximize the volume in his voice, in the middle of his media scrum, when he described Pujols as “too old”. The first baseman did not budge.
‘Still a human side to this game’
Marmol will be faced with the difficult proposition of maximizing his on-field return from Pujols as the Cardinals fight for a spot in the postseason, balancing it as they have the player to honor, with the desire to honor the game. is the whole year.
For now, the conversation becomes much less complicated. Pujol is hitting. He answers any and all questions one might have about why he is there.
“You try to figure out who can slow down the game that can give you a quality on the bat and in the bat,” Marmol said of leaning on Pujol with the thinning of the lineup. “There’s still a human side to this game. He’s part of it.”
Man, not a machine.