Seams Legit: Is Albert Pujols the greatest hitter of the 21st Century (so far)?

Think about it.

He just passed 3,000 hits against the Mariners — which, by the way, it would’ve been nice if Ichiro was in the game when it happened, but at least he was there for it.

He’s got 620 home runs and counting.

27 baseball players have hit over 500 home runs. 32 have over 3,000 hits. Only 6 players have eclipsed both marks: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro and now Albert Pujols.

Pujols is actually 1 of 4 to have 600 home runs and 3,000 hits, along with Mays, Rodriguez and Murray.

When I think of the best hitters through the first 18 years of this century 5 names come to mind in addition to Pujols:

Ichiro

Miguel Cabrera

Alex Rodriguez

Mike Trout

Barry Bonds

Ichiro might be the best contact hitter of all-time, but you need to drop more than 117 home runs in 18 years to advance in this conversation.

Cabrera was unstoppable from 2009-2010. Averaged 38 home runs a year and 122 RBI a year. He had a .335/.419/.598 slash line with a 1.018 OPS. STUD. 2-time MVP, 4-time all-star in the stretch. Has a great case. However, he’s only played two fewer seasons than Pujols, but trails him in the home run category by 155 home runs. Is that because Comerica isn’t a hitter friendly park? Maybe. But Cabrera certainly didn’t have to stay there for 11 years. Cabrera only trails Pujols by 335 hits, but give the noticeable gap in power I’m giving the edge to Pujols.

A-Rod’s numbers are stupid. But you have to take out his numbers from 1994-1999 (148 home runs, .308/.363/.551) for this conversation. He played in 15 seasons this century (not all full seasons). When A-Rod was on the Rangers (3 seasons, 156 home runs, .305/.295/.615, 1.011 OPS, 132 RBI per year), he was equally as terrifying as Barry Bonds. But there were the issues of PEDs, something that no one has ever officially linked to Pujols. And when you look at his numbers over the 15 years, he was excellent, but hit less home runs (548) than Pujols and averaged less hits per season (167 to 145).

Mike Trout’s been around for a minute. Definitely the better all-around player. Could go down as the greatest of all-time. But he needs to play a lot longer before he can take over this title.

Bonds is the toughest one. Of course there’s the whole PED issue. (Look, he’s still deserves a spot in the hall, but in terms of this conversation that matters.) And he played the least amount of time in the 2000s (8 years). But you can’t ignore the fact that he had a 1.241 OPS in that time, broke the single season home run record, won the batting title twice and led the league in on-base percentage 6 times. No one more intimidating.

At the same time, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson were probably the most intimidating pitchers anyone ever face. Doesn’t necessarily mean they were the best ever. (I’m taking Pedro and Maddux over them both, for sure.)

In this case, I’m playing the PED card. Pujols hasn’t had that linked to him ever. In the grand scheme of it all, I don’t care that Bonds used the steroids. Like I said, he should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But when it comes to this sort of conversation, that matters, at least to me.

Pujols certainly hasn’t been the same guy since joining the Angels, that’s definitely the hole in this argument. I think that actually helps with the argument of Pujols over Bonds. He got old (for a baseball player). His skills deteriorated. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

But for everything he did in his 11 years with the Cardinals (.445 home runs, .328/.420/.617) and the major milestones he has reached, Pujols deserves that title.

For now…

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