Albert Pujols becomes 32nd MLB player to reach 3,000 hits

by Rocco Constantino | Posted on Friday, May 4th, 2018
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Albert Pujols reached another historic milestone as he continues to author the most prolific offensive career of his generation when he notched his 3,000th career hit with an opposite-field single off Mike Leake of the Seattle Mariners.

Pujols became the 32nd member of the 3,000 hit club and joined Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez and Hank Aaron as the only members of the 3,000 hit club to also have 600 home runs.  Pujols is 65 RBIs away from 2,000 for his career.  Should he pass that threshold, he’d be the only member of the 3,000 hit club to do so besides Aaron and Rodriguez.

For the first time in Major League history, players have reached the 3,000 hit plateau in four straight seasons.  In 2015, Rodriguez recorded his 3,000th hit with a home run.  Ichiro Suzuki followed in 2016 and Adrian Beltre reached 3,000 hits last season.

Pujols also becomes the 20th player to record 3,000 hits while carrying a .300 career batting average.  His current mark of .304 is one point ahead of Pete Rose and one behind George Brett.

A 13th round draft pick in 1999, Pujols spent just one year in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, hitting .314 with 19 home runs and 96 RBIs while ascending from A ball up to AAA over the course of the season.

Pujols made the Cardinals opening day roster out of spring training and started the season as the Cardinals left fielder and sixth batter.  Current Cardinals manager Mike Matheny batted behind Pujols in the seven hole in a strong Cardinals lineup that also featured Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds and Edgar Renteria.  The late Darryl Kile was the Cardinals starter that day.

Pujols recorded his first career hit against Mike Hampton on a ground ball single to left field.  He went on to one of the greatest rookie seasons of anyone to play the game, batting .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs.  He finished fourth in the National League MVP voting behind Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Luis Gonzalez.

Pujols played 11 years in St. Louis before signing with the Angels after helping the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series title.  Although his overall series didn’t feature the video game numbers people became accustomed to, Pujols perhaps had the best single-game offensive performance in postseason history.  In game three, Pujols went 5-6 with six RBIs, three home runs and four runs scored.

During his time in St. Louis, Pujols recorded 2,073 hits and 445 home runs while batting .328.  He topped 100 RBIs in each of his first 11 seasons, becoming the first player to ever do so.  His streak was broken in his last year in St. Louis when he drove in 99.

His numbers fell off in Anaheim compared to what he had done in St. Louis, but it would have been impossible to expect Pujols to keep up that pace throughout his 30s.  Although his batting average usually hovered in the mid-.200s, Pujols still remained an effective power source and maintained his knack for driving in runs.  Pujols has topped 100 RBIs in four of his six full seasons in Anaheim and has reached 30 home runs three times.

As with anyone who joins the 3,000 hit club, Pujols was greeted by Roberto Clemente on the list.  Clemente died after the 1972 season and ended his career with exactly 3,000 hits.  In the coming weeks, Pujols should begin to make his way up the list quickly.  Al Kaline sits next at 3,007 and Wade Boggs is 29th with 3,010.

If Pujols could match his total of 143 hits from last season it would place him in the top 20 of all-time.  Pujols became the second player to reach 3,000 hits as a member of the Angels, joining Rod Carew who did so in 1985.  Pujols recorded his 3,000th hit nearly 40 years to the day that Pete Rose recorded his 3,000th hit.  Rose accomplished his feat on May 5, 1978.

Pujols is signed through the 2021 season and has remained incredibly durable, even during his later years.  After playing just 99 games in 2013, Pujols has averaged 154 games played over the past four years.  After playing just six games at first base last season, Pujols has already played 18 games there this year while serving as the DH 12 times.  With the way Shohei Ohtani has been hitting, the Angels have little choice but to play Pujols at first a considerable amount of time as the Angels find themselves in a bind.

Pujols does not have the all-around game to remain an every day two-way player, but there won’t be as many opportunities for him to DH with Ohtani in the mix.  Pujols likely isn’t going anywhere though as he’d be leaving approximately $90 million on the table if he retired at the end of this season.

Either way, Pujols’ legacy is that he will be considered one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game.  He’ll be an inner-circle Hall of Famer who should be elected with one of the highest percentages of all-time.  If Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera don’t reach the 100% mark on the Hall of Fame ballot, and it’s likely neither will, the next debate will be whether or not Pujols will become the first to do so.

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Rocco Constantino
About the Author

Rocco is the author of 50 Moments That Defined Major League Baseball (Available on Amazon now!) and former Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He is also a die hard Mets fan going back to the awful early 80's and ready for the revival. D2 NCAA softball coach and athletics administrator. Follow Rocco on Twitter @mlb100years.

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