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Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols

José Alberto Pujols Alcántara (IPA: /puˌˡxols/), (born January 16, 1980 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), (nicknamed Prince Albert, Sir Albert, Phat Albert, or El Hombre[1]) 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.[2][3] 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.[4]

He already ranks 115th on the List of the Top 500 home run hitters in the history of the game. On July 4th, 2008, Albert hit his 300th career home run, off Chicago Cubs’ setup man Bobby Howry, a screaming line drive off the foul pole, in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium, becoming the fifth-youngest player (28 yrs., 170 days) in MLB history to accomplish that feat.[5]

From 2001 (his debut) through the 2007 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 Rodriguez’s 874; second in doubles (298) to Todd Helton’s 318; fourth in hits (1,344) to Ichiro Suzuki (1,592), Juan Pierre (1,378), and Derek Jeter (1,348); and second in batting average (.3315) to Suzuki (.3335). As of June 25 2008, Pujols has passed Suzuki as the active career batting average leader, .332 to .330.

He also won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2001.

In recent years, Pujols has become an excellent defensive player at first base, winning his first Gold Glove award in 2006.

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.; 1939-1942 and 1946-1949) 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.
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 1999. 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).[6] 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 2000, 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.
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.

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 1955. 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 1930 Boston Braves and Frank Robinson of the 1956 Cincinnati Redlegs. His 130 RBI set an NL rookie record.
2002: No Sophomore Slump
Pujols wearing the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals retro jersey.
Pujols wearing the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals retro jersey.

In 2002, 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 deaths of team announcer Jack Buck and 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.

[edit] 2003: Batting Champion

In the 2003 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.

[edit] 2004: Full-time First Base

Defensively, Pujols started his major league career primarily as a third baseman. During Pujols’ rookie season, he started at four different positions (1B, 3B, LF and RF), and has also appeared at 2B (late in the 2001 All-Star game as well as a regular season game in April 2008) 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 a $16 million club option for 2011 on February 20, 2004. Pujols received a full no-trade clause for 2004-2006, and a limited no-trade clause for the remainder of the deal. $12 million will be deferred ($3 million per-year from 2007-2010 at 0% interest to be paid in 10 installments of $1.2 million from 2020 to 2029). He receives a $200,000 bonus for winning an MVP, $100,000 for finishing second in MVP balloting, and $50,000 for being selected to an All-Star game and winning a Gold Glove. [7] 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.

[edit] 2005: Most Valuable Player

The 2005 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. His performance in 2005 earned him the National League Most Valuable Player award.

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, 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. [8]

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.

[edit] 2006: World Series Champion Cardinals
Pujols at the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Pujols at the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

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 on June 4 – June 21, missing 15 games. 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 among 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 among 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.

[edit] 2007: Slow Start, Great Finish

Pujols had a slower start in the spring than in previous years due to several injuries all in his right elbow. In 2006, he had set a Major League record with 14 home runs in April,[9] though in 2007 he only accumulated 6 home runs and 15 RBI. His batting average was a mere .250 while slugging only .489.[10]

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.[11]

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 1940, Joe DiMaggio 29 HRs in 1936)

He won (as did Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina) the prestigious Fielding Bible Award, given to only one MLB player at each position, for his defensive excellence at first base.[12]

[edit] 2008: 42-game on-base streak, on disabled list, and 300th Home Run

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.[13]

For the month of April, he reached base safely (via hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch) in all 29 team games played starting on April 1. His most consecutive games start in reaching base was 33 games in 2005. That was the best start by any Cardinal player in reaching base since 1956.

In early May, his .518 on-base percentage is the best in the major leagues, as is his 33 walks and his 9 intentional walks. He is third in batting average with his .358 (38-for-106).

On May 5, Pujols scored the game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning at Colorado in memorable fashion. After lining a double to the opposite field in right with the score tied at 5, Pujols took off for third with Rick Ankiel batting. As Ankiel grounded to second, Pujols did not hesitate around third, scoring from second on the groundout to give the Cardinals an eventual 6-5 win. Earlier in the game he extended his on-base games streak to 33, tying his best start in 2005.

On May 6, Pujols doubled–extending his beginning-of-season on-base game streak to 34, and passing his previous 2005 high of 33-games at the start of a season; second-longest of his career to the 48-game streak since his rookie year (2001) from July 28 – September 22.

His 42-game streak ended on May 16, when he failed to reach base in four at-bats.

Ted Williams had a 65-game on-base streak starting out the 1948 season, and Pujols’ streak is the best in Cardinals’ history at the beginning of a season in research since 1956, and the longest in baseball since Derek Jeter had a 53-game streak in 1999.[14]

On June 10, he strained his left-calf muscle running from home after hitting a grounder to the first baseman, and is on the 15-day disabled list for only the second time in his eight-year career, casting a pall over rookie Mitchell Boggs winning his first start, against the Cincinnati Reds at Cincinnati.[15] [16]

He was re-activated on June 26, to DH for that afternoon’s game after missing 13 games.[17] He went 4 for 4 the day of his return.

On July 4th, he hit his 300th career home run against the rival, Chicago Cubs.[18] He is the fifth youngest player to hit 300 home runs.

[edit] Personal

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, 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.[19] 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."[20] 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.[21]Pujols also enjoys talking to his fans in his spare time, through his official site.

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.[22] Placido was a second baseman on the 2006 Detroit Tigers team which lost to the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series.

On February 7, 2007, Pujols became a U.S. citizen,[23] scoring a perfect 100 on his citizenship test.[24] On April 24, 2007, Upper Deck Authenticated announced it had signed Pujols to an exclusive autographed memorabilia agreement.

Posted by d.lyle@sbcglobal.net on 2007-07-25 17:45:55

Tagged: , Camera , Day- , Bush , Stadium

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