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Albert Pujols leaving last mark on MLB

On Saturday night, Albert Pujols joined an elite group in Major League Baseball. With one swing of the bat, Pujols crushed a grand slam deep into the left field expanse beyond the wall, setting off a historic celebration. The ninth player ever to hit 600 home runs, and the first to reach the milestone on a grand slam, took a curtain call as the Angels beat the Twins.

Pujols is one of nine players to reach 600, but he’s got plenty more going for him historically. Unlike Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds, he has never been linked to steroids. While his size might lend some to believe Pujols is getting some unnatural help, it’s unfair for him to be painted in such a light. Despite testing throughout most of his career, and a watchful eye by an ever-growing media, nothing has ever suggested Pujols a cheat.

Saturday was his moment, his night, and a deserved celebration for one of the greatest players to ever grace a ball field. Afterwards, Pujols spoke about the wink in time, per ESPN.

“I’m just glad to be on that list, man,” Pujols said, laughing, after the Angels’ 7-2 win over the Minnesota Twins. “Whether it was a solo homer, a grand slam, I’m just glad that it happened tonight. It’s a pretty special feeling. You look at the other players that come through the league and play so long, to be able to be No. 9 in that list is a pretty special number.”

While there was a boom of home runs in the 1990s and early 2000s, we’ve seen the number of blasts go back to normal over the past decade. Yet Pujols has stayed ahead of the curve, continuing to hit home runs at a record pace. His average has begun to dip in the twilight of his career, but that’s to be expected. His feet aren’t the same and body has gone a bit thick in the middle but the World Series champion remains one of the league’s most dangerous hitters.

Few have ever done it to the degree Pujols has, and certainly not as consistently. Coming into the league as a rookie in 2001 with the St. Louis Cardinals, the slugger hit .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBI. Thus started an incredible career of steady greatness. Since that year, Pujols has hit at least 30 home runs in every season save 2013 and 2014. Only three times in that span has Pujols failed to knock in at least 100 runs. His career average is .308, while his on-base percentage looms at .390. In the field, Pujols has claimed two Gold Gloves.

Two championships, three NL MVP awards and a host of other and aforementioned accolades will some day land Pujols in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He deserves it, and then some.

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