José Alberto Pujols Alcántara he (IPA: /Template:IPA/), (born January 16, 1980 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), (nicknamed Prince Albert, Phat Albert, The Machine, or El Hombre) is a Major League Baseball first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals. He is widely regarded as one of the best players in the game today. With Barry Bonds unsigned as of the beginning of the 2008 season, Pujols was voted the runaway winner as the most feared hitter in baseball in a poll of all 30 big league managers.
He already ranks 128th on the list of the Top 500 home run hitters in the history of the game.
With the decline of Ichiro Suzuki (and #3 Todd Helton .292) hitting in the low .260s in the month of April 2008, Pujols has now wrested the career #1 batting average leader from Suzuki, by a fraction of a point; both at .332 with Helton third at .331.
From Template:By (his debut) through the Template:By seasons, Pujols has led the major leagues in total bases (2,514) and extra-base hits (593). He was second in home runs (282) to Alex Rodriguez (329); second in RBI (861) to Rodriguez's 908; second in runs (847) to A-Rod's 874; second in doubles (298) to Todd Helton's 318; fourth in hits (1,344) to Ichiro Suzuki's (1,592), Juan Pierre (1,378), Derek Jeter (1,348); and second in batting average (.3315) to Suzuki (.3335). He also won the rookie of the year award in 2001.
During the 2006 season, he became the first Major League player to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first six seasons, and the youngest to hit 250 home runs. He extended his 30-HR streak to seven consecutive years in 2007 on August 22 against the Florida Marlins, with a 2-run blast (#280 of his career) at Busch Stadium in the first inning. Pujols is also the first player since Ted Williams (8 yrs.; Template:By-Template:By and Template:By-Template:By) to begin his career with seven straight 100-RBI seasons, after hitting his 32nd home run (#282 of his career) on September 26, 2007, against the Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee.
Early life and career
Pujols was born in the Dominican Republic . His grandmother, America, assumed many of the responsibilities of raising him.
Pujols and his family immigrated to the United States in the early 1990s, first to New York City and then later to Independence, Missouri. In the U.S., Pujols displayed his love for baseball, batting over .500 in his first season of baseball at Fort Osage High School. He quickly became the most feared hitter in the Kansas City area, leading to multiple intentional walks a game in some stretches. However, he still managed to hit .660 with 8 home runs his final year of high school, with limited official at bats. After starring for both Fort Osage and the Post 340 American Legion summer team out of Independence, Pujols graduated from high school in December of 1998. He went on to attend Maple Woods Community College in the Kansas City area during the spring of Template:By. In his only season with the community college, Pujols showed off his talent, hitting a grand slam and turning an unassisted triple play in his first game. He batted .461 for the year.
Few big league teams were very interested in Pujols. A Colorado Rockies scout reported favorably about the young hitter, but the club took no action. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays arranged a tryout for Pujols, but it went poorly (after the team did not draft him, the scout who'd found Pujols resigned). The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Pujols in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, the 402nd overall pick. However, Pujols initially turned down a USD $10,000 bonus and opted to play in the Jayhawk League in Kansas instead. By the end of the summer of 1999, the Cardinals increased their bonus offer to $70,000, and Pujols signed with the team. He was assigned to the minor leagues.
In 1999, Pujols played for the Peoria Chiefs of the single-A Midwest League, where he was voted league MVP. Pujols quickly progressed through the ranks of the St. Louis farm clubs, first at the Potomac Cannons in the high-A Carolina League and then with the Memphis Redbirds in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.
2001:Rookie of the Year
During spring training in 2001 , the Cardinals were preparing for Pujols to join the Major League ranks, but the Cardinals' roster was already full of talented players, including Mark McGwire, Fernando Viña, Edgar Rentería, Ray Lankford, Jim Edmonds and J. D. Drew. While it's widely believed that an injury to bench player Bobby Bonilla freed up a roster spot, Pujols actually played extremely well in spring and won a spot on the Opening Day roster before Bonilla went on the DL. (John Mabry was the last player added to the team.)
In the season's second series, playing against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Pujols hit a home run, three doubles and eight RBI, securing his spot on the team. In May, he was named National League Rookie of the Month. In June, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game by NL manager Bobby Valentine, the first Cardinal rookie selected since Template:By. Pujols' phenomenal rookie season helped the Cardinals tie for the National League Central Division title. For the season, Pujols batted .329/.403/.610 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with 37 home runs and 130 RBI, and was unanimously named the National League Rookie of the Year. His 37 home runs were one short of the National League rookie record of 38, held by Wally Berger of the Template:By Boston Braves and Frank Robinson of the Template:By Cincinnati Redlegs. His 130 RBI set an NL rookie record.
2002: No Sophomore Slump
In Template:By, Pujols struggled early on as pitchers learned how to pitch to him, but he continued to bat extremely well throughout the season, hitting .314/.394/.561 with 34 homers and 127 RBI. The Cardinals finished first in the NL Central during a difficult campaign that saw the death of team announcer Jack Buck and the sudden death of pitcher Darryl Kile. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship series. Albert would ultimately finish second in the MVP voting behind Barry Bonds.
2003: Batting Champion
In the Template:By season, Pujols had one of the best individual seasons in Cardinals history batting .359/.439/.667 with 43 home runs and 124 RBI, winning the National League batting title, while also leading the league in runs, hits, doubles, extra base hits and total bases. At 23, Albert became the youngest NL batting champion since 1962 and joined Rogers Hornsby as the only players in Cardinals history to record 40+ homers and 200+ hits in the same season. The Cardinals, however, failed to make the playoffs, faltering in the stretch to the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. Pujols also finished second in the MVP voting to Barry Bonds and had a 30-game hitting streak.
2004: Full-time First Base
Defensively, Pujols started his major league career primarily as a third baseman. It can also be noted that during Pujols' rookie season, he started at four different positions (1B, 3B, LF and RF), during the course of the season, and has also appeared at 2B (late in the 2001 All-Star game) and SS (late in one 2002 regular season game). When Scott Rolen joined the team in 2002, Pujols was moved to left field. Following an injury scare in 2003, Pujols was moved to his current position, first base.
Pujols signed a seven-year, $100 million contract extension with the Cardinals before the Template:By season began. Throughout the year, Pujols was nagged by plantar fasciitis, but he was still a powerful hitter, hitting .331/.415/.657 with 46 home runs and 123 RBI. Pujols, along with Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen earned the nickname MV3 for their phenomenal 2004 seasons. In addition, Pujols was chosen to appear on the cover of EA Sports' video game, MVP Baseball 2004. He was also the MVP of the 2004 National League Championship Series, helping his team reach the World Series, where they were swept by the Boston Red Sox.
2005: Most Valuable Player
The Template:By season saw Pujols establish career highs in walks and stolen bases, while leading his team in almost every offensive category. He finished batting .330/.430/.609, with 41 home runs (including his 200th career homer), a grand slam, 117 RBI, 97 walks, and 16 stolen bases (leading all major league first basemen). However, due to continually nagging leg injuries, he finished with a career-low 38 doubles.
The Cardinals were eliminated by the Houston Astros 4 games to 2 in the National League Championship Series, but Pujols hit one of the most memorable home runs in modern day baseball history in game 5 of that series as the Cardinals were only one out from elimination. With the Astros leading 4-2 with two outs in the ninth inning, David Eckstein singled. The next batter, Jim Edmonds, was walked. Pujols then hit a home run off of Brad Lidge that landed on the landmark train tracks in the back of Minute Maid Park. Those three runs were the deciding factor in the game, as the Cardinals ended up winning the game 5-4, sending the series back to St. Louis.
In 2005, John Dewan noted in The Fielding Bible that no first baseman was better at digging balls out of the dirt than Pujols. Pujols saved 42 bad throws by his fielders in 2005. Derrek Lee was second with 23. At the same time, Pujols shared the major league lead in errors for a first baseman, with 14.
2006: World Series winner
Pujols set the record for the most home runs hit in the first month of the season, at 14, on April 29, 2006. The record was tied by Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees in 2007. On June 3, 2006, Pujols suffered an oblique strain chasing a foul pop fly off the bat of Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez. He was later placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career. Pujols, at the time of his injury, had 25 home runs and 65 RBI and was on pace to break the single-season records held by Barry Bonds (73 HRs) and Hack Wilson (191 RBI). Pujols returned in time to help the Cardinals win the NL Central. He started at first base for the 2006 National League All-Star team at the All-Star game in Pittsburgh. Pujols finished the season with a .331/.431/.671 line, establishing new career-highs in slugging percentage (in which he led the majors), home runs (49)(second) and RBIs (137)(second). In the 2006 National League MVP voting, he came in a close second to eventual winner Ryan Howard, garnering 12 of 32 first-place votes.
After appearing in the playoffs with the Cardinals in four of his first five years in the big leagues but falling short each time, Pujols won his first championship ring when the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, defeating the Detroit Tigers four games to one.
Pujols' fielding percentage was close to the bottom amongst qualified National League first basemen in his first two full seasons at the position, but in 2006 it was impressive. After the season Pujols' improvements were recognized as he was given his first Gold Glove award. He has had the highest range factor amongst first basemen in his two full seasons, and led the National League in that category in 2006; emblematic was the sprawling, flip-from-his-back playPujols made to rob Plácido Polanco of a hit in the 7th inning of Game 5 of the World Series.
2007: Slow Start
Pujols had a slower start in the spring than in previous years. In 2006, he had set a Major League record with 14 home runs in April, though in 2007 he only accumulated 6 home runs and 15 RBI. His batting average was a mere .250 while slugging only .489.
May was better, zooming to .340 for the month, but with only 3 home runs and 13 RBI while his slugging average was only marginally better at .495. His batting average started to climb back to normal career levels, and he ended the month with a .296 batting average and a .492 slugging percentage.
He hit 7 home runs with 20 RBI in June. He raised his batting average to a composite .306 with a .534 slugging percentage and 48 RBI after the month was over.
Following the All-Star Break, he hit 4 home runs in his first 3 games back against the Philadelphia Phillies. Pujols was also awarded the Player of the Week honors from July 9 to the 15th after going 9-for-15 with a 1.357 slugging percentage and 19 total bases, all while batting .429.
He also hit his 25th home run on August 15, making him just the fifth player all-time to hit 25 home runs in his first 7 seasons in the major leagues, and the first since Darryl Strawberry. On August 22, Pujols slugged his 30th home run of the season, becoming the first major-league player to hit at least 30 home runs in each of his first 7 seasons. He then had hit home runs in five consecutive games, tying a Cardinals' single-season record. His next game on August 23 ended his 5-game home run streak, his 7-game RBI streak, and his 9-game hitting streak. He finished August batting a composite .317, slugging .558 with 30 home runs and 84 runs batted in, while still sporting an excellent .416 on-base percentage despite his slower-than-usual start in April.
In a pre-game warmup on the field before a September 18 game at home, he suffered a strained calf muscle in his left leg and was not able to start or appear later in the game. For September, he hit two home runs for a total of 32, the last one giving him 16 RBI for the month, and 100 RBI for the seventh consecutive year to become only the third player to accomplish that level of consistency at the start of his career.
He is the only player in baseball history to start his career with seven consecutive seasons with a .300 batting average, 30 HRs, 100 RBI, and 99 runs. (Ted Williams 23 HRs in Template:By, Joe DiMaggio 29 HRs in Template:By)
He won (as did fellow Cardinal, catcher Yadier Molina) the prestigious Fielding Bible Award for his defensive excellence at first base, which is given to only one player per position in the major leagues.
He reached another milestone early in the season when he hit his 300th career double in only his 4,066th official at-bat in his 1,095th game (4,755th plate appearance), against Odalis Perez of the Washington Nationals on April 4.
At age 16, Pujols immigrated to the United States with his family which lived briefly in New York City before settling in Independence, Missouri. He graduated from Fort Osage High School in Independence, Missouri in 1998, and attended Maple Woods Community College on a baseball scholarship. He later graduated and entered the MLB, getting drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round draft, 402nd overal. Pujols married his wife, Deidre, on January 1, 2000. They have three children, Isabella (Deidre's daughter, adopted by Albert), Albert Jr., and Sophia. Albert and his wife are active in the cause of people with Down syndrome, as Isabella was born with this condition. In 2005 (appropriately on May 5, which is written as 5/5/05, '5' being Albert's uniform number), they launched the Pujols Family Foundation, which is dedicated to "the love, care and development of people with Down syndrome and their families", as well as helping the poor in the Dominican Republic. Pujols and his wife are very active Christians; as the foundation's website says, "In the Pujols family, God is first. Everything else is a distant second." More information on the foundation can be found at its website: www.pujolsfamilyfoundation.org. He has taken part ownership in Patrick's restaurant at Westport Plaza in Maryland Heights, Missouri. The remodeled restaurant was reopened as Pujols 5 on August 30, 2006.
Pujols is close friends with second baseman Plácido Polanco, a former teammate with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols is godfather to Polanco's 3-year-old son, Ismael. Placido was a second baseman on the 2006 Detroit Tigers team which lost to the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series.
- Six-time All-Star (2001, 2003-07)
- Pujols has finished in the top four in the voting for MVP of the National League every year of his career, winning once (2005) and coming in second three times (2002, 2003 & 2006).
- National League Batting Champion, 2003
- Only Ralph Kiner hit more home runs (215) in his first five seasons than Albert (201 home runs from 2001 through 2005).
- Named to Major League Baseball's Latino Legends Team in 2005 as the starting first baseman.
- Hit the first Cardinal home run in new Busch Stadium (Apr. 10, 2006)
- Became the 35th player to hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats, and the 20th batter to hit four home runs in four consecutive plate appearances, on April 16 and 17, 2006.
- Holds the record for most home runs in the month of April with 14 in 2006, tied with Alex Rodriguez, 2007.
- Became the fastest player in Major League history to reach 19 home runs in a season, doing so on May 13, 2006.
- Became the third-fastest, after Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, to reach 25 home runs in a season, doing so on May 29, 2006.
- Became first player in MLB history to hit 30 home runs in each of his first seven seasons (2001-07).
- Became the 16th batter to hit three home runs in a game twice in the same season in 2006 (04.16 & 09.03).
- 20 of his 49 home runs accounted for the game-winning RBI in 2006, breaking Willie Mays' single-season record set in 1962.
- 2006 World Series Champion.
- Became only the third player in baseball history to start his career with seven consecutive seasons of 100+ RBIs, on September 26, 2007. Joe DiMaggio (1936-1942), and Ted Williams (1939-1942, 1946-1949) were the only other players to accomplish that great feat.
- Became the only player in baseball history to start his career with seven consecutive seasons with a .300 batting average, 30 HRs, 100 RBIs.
- Rookie of the Year, 2001
- Three-time Silver Slugger (2001, 2003-04) (Note: Pujols has won a Silver Slugger at three different positions: First Base, Third Base, and Left Field).
- National League Player of the Month for both May and June 2003 and for April 2006
- Hank Aaron Award, 2003
- Batting Title Champion 2003
- TSN Player of the Year, 2003
- NLCS MVP, 2004
- National League MVP, 2005
- Fielding Bible Award at first base, 2006
- Gold Glove Award at first base, 2006
- Fielding Bible Award at first base, 2007
bold statistic = led NL
bold year = elected as starter in All-Star Game
Yearly Averages for Career
- Top 500 home run hitters of all time
- List of Major League Baseball batting champions
- List of Major League Baseball runs scored champions
- List of Major League Baseball doubles records
- List of Major League Baseball doubles champions
- Major League Baseball hitters with three home runs in one game
- ^ Baseball-Reference.com
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Nate Silver (2006). "Baseball's most valuable players". ESPN.com.
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Hal Bodley (2006-10-31). "Cardinals slugger Pujols earns perfect score in annual Elias player rankings". USA Today.
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Stark, Jayson (April 24, 2008). "Identifying the most feared hitter in the bigs". ESPN.com.
- ^ SignOnSanDiego.com > Sports - 401 players taken before Pujols in '99
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Leach, Matthew (October 15 2005). "Pujols keeps Cards' season alive". MLB. Retrieved 2007-07-08. Check date values in:
- ^ SignOnSanDiego.com > Sports - Pujols sets home run record for April with No. 14
- ^ The Official Site of Major League Baseball: Stats: Individual Player Game by Game Log
- ^ Albert Pujols - St. Louis Cardinals - Game Log - MLB - Yahoo! Sports
- ^ The Official Site of The St. Louis Cardinals: News: St. Louis Cardinals News
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"St. Louis Cardinals GAME NOTES". St. Louis Cardinals. 2008-03-05. p. 3. Retrieved 2008-03-06.
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Mission Statement". Pujols Family Foundation. Retrieved 2006-08-10.
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"About Our Faith". Pujols Family Foundation. Retrieved 2006-08-10.
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Pujols Swings, and it's a grand...opening". St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved 2006-09-02.
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Enrique Rojas (2006-10-23). "Pujols is godfather to Polanco's son". ESPN.com.
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Leach, Matthew (February 8, 2007). "Pujols officially becomes U.S. citizen". MLB.com.
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>AP (2007). "Pujols officially becomes U.S. citizen". Daily Vidette online.
- ^ Recap of first game at New Busch (Apr. 10, 2006).
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>AP (2006-9-27). "Three-run Pujols blast helps Cards snap 7-game skid". ESPN.com. Check date values in:
- ^ <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>AP (2006-9-29). "Cards power past Brewers, extend narrow division lead". ESPN.com. Check date values in:
- Albert Pujols official web site, the Pujols Family Foundation
- Albert Pujols Fan Site
- Albert Pujols Home Run and RBI Pace
- Albert Pujols page at stlcardinals.scout.com
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