Albert Pujols hits 700 home runs: Everything you need to know as Cardinals legend hits historic milestone

The baseball gods gifted us with two exciting home run chases in 2022. New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hits 61 homers, Roger Maris’ American League single-season record. In the National League, the legend of St. Louis Cardinals and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols reached the hallowed milestone of 700 homers.

Pujols hit his 699th and 700th career hits on September 23rd, extending his sole possession of fourth place on the all-time home run list, ahead of Alex Rodriguez. Pujols, 42, is back with the Cardinals this season, and it’s more than just a farewell tour. He was a very productive platoon bat and in August went deep seven times in a 10-game span to make 700 homers a real possibility.

On August 30, Pujols took lefty Ross Detwiler deep for his 694th career home run. Detwiler was the 450th different pitcher Pujols hit deep in his career, breaking the record held by Barry Bonds. Of course, Pujols almost certainly would have hit his 700th homer sooner if not for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but that was beyond his control.

So, the question on everyone’s mind is how much further past 700 home runs can Pujols get before the season ends? Here’s what you need to know about Pujols after becoming the fourth member of the 700 home club.

All-time home standings

Pujols is currently fourth on the all-time home run list. Only four sluggers in MLB history have hit 700 home runs, a list that now includes Pujols:

  1. Barry Bonds: 762
  2. Hank Aaron: 755
  3. Babe Ruth: 714
  4. Albert Pujols: 700 and on and on
  5. Alex Rodriguez: 696

For what it’s worth, Pujols has averaged a homer in 16.3 career at-bats, which is top 40 all-time but lags behind other top power hitters. Mark McGwire is the all-time leader with a homer every 10.61 at-bats. Giancarlo Stanton is tops among active players with 13.82 at bats per homer.

It’s worth noting that passing A-Rod, Pujols is the all-time home run leader among infielders. Bonds, Aaron and Ruth were primarily outfielders. Pujols has spent most of his career at first base. Jim Thome is the only other first baseman with 600 home runs. He is eighth on the all-time hit list with 612.

Historical relevance

The historical relevance of the 700 hostages is obvious. Only four players have ever done it, and there’s a chance we’ll never see another player approach the milestone in our lifetime. Unless Miguel Cabrera finds the fountain of youth and sticks around for a few more years, the active player with the best chance at 700 homers is … probably Juan Soto? He joined the 100-homer team at age 23 earlier this season and has a long, long way to go. It’s not often a player approaches 700 homers.

As some fans and certain segments of the media are wont to do, we can attach asterisks to just about anyone on the all-time shutout list. Bonds was linked to performance-enhancing drugs. A-Rod admitted to using them in several seasons. Ruth used to play before integration. Aaron was playing when amphetamines, now a banned substance, were prevalent throughout the game. Any kind of on-field controversy involving Pujols lacks conclusive evidence. You can never be 100 percent sure, but Pujols and his reputation are as clean as they come.

He plays more with righties

At this point in his career, Pujols is more of a lefty than an everyday player, though with the Cardinals enjoying a sizable lead in the NL Central — and Pujols being so productive in recent weeks — Pujols has received more starts against righties. That equates to more at-bats and a better chance to solidify his spot on the all-time home run list.

The universal DH allows Pujols to play every game without game wear. There is a fund element to it as well. The chase will butt the seats and that equates to more revenue for the team. This absolutely plays into the allocation of time when a story this important is on the line.

The ultimate goal is to win the World Series — Pujols himself would tell you that — and the Cardinals will have to do whatever it takes to improve their World Series chances. Normally that would mean sitting Pujols against righties, but with a sizable lead in the NL Central, the St. Louis can afford to give Pujols more at-bats against righties, giving him as many bites at the apple as possible.

He is still retiring

Back in spring training, Pujols said he plans to retire after this season, but what if he had finished the year with, say, 699 homers? Surely he would be back in 2023 to hit the milestone, right? No. Pujols insisted he will retire after the season regardless of his final home run number. He repeated the same to USA Today:

“I’m still going to retire, regardless of whether I end up at 693, 696, 700, whatever,” Pujols said. “I don’t care about numbers. If you would have told me 22 years ago that I would be this close, I would have told you that you are crazy. My career has been amazing.”

“No, I’ve had enough,” he said. “I’m glad to announce that this was when I signed. I really wouldn’t change a thing.”

Reaching 700 homers, then, has to be the best for Pujols and his storied career.

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