Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Albert Pujols: A Great Baseball Player

This Cardinals' jersey, on display in the Hall of Fame, was worn by Albert Pujols on September 19, 2001, when he broke the NL rookie record for RBI.

National Baseball Hall of Fame

When Albert Pujols was invited to spring training in 2001, he wasn't expected to make the team. The invite was more of a chance for management to get a close look at the youngster. As spring training progressed, he lit up opposing pitching and it soon became obvious that there was no way that the Cardinals could not take Pujols north.

Phat Albert, as he is affectionately known, played in 161 games his rookie year, splitting time between third base, first base, left and right field, and occasionally DH-ing. Albert put together one of the finest rookie seasons in the history of the game and has not looked back since. He continues to put up staggering numbers year after year, in fact he is the only player in the history of the game to hit .300 with 30 home runs, 100 runs batted in, and 100 runs scored in each of his first five seasons.

It was in his third season in the big leagues, at the tender age of 23, that he made a run at history. On July 17, 2003, Pujols began what would become a 30-game hitting streak. The streak was the longest by any Cardinal since Hall of Famer Stan Musial hit in 30 straight in 1950, and the second longest in club history to another Hall of Famer, Rogers Hornsby, who hit in 33 in 1922.

During the 30 games, right-handed hitting Pujols batted .380 with 26 RBI, 29 runs, 21 extra base hits, and eight homers. The streak was in full swing when Albert was forced out of the lineup after the August 16th game with flu-like symptoms. He returned to the lineup on August 22nd, and took his first oh-fer in over a month, ending the streak at 30 games. One can only wonder what may have come from this streak had illness not befallen the young star.

Since Pujols' 30-game batting streak in 2003, two players have exceeded that mark, both of them while playing for the Phillies. Who are those two players? Jimmy Rollins (38 games in 2005-2006) and Chase Utley (35 games in 2006).

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