news 6 days ago

Albert Pujols' chase for 700 home runs up in the air as MLB season pauses

Sporting News — (Joe Rivera)

Could Albert Pujols' quest for 700 home runs be over?

We're in serious times, with serious effects, and the baseball season is obviously a byproduct of them. But of all the stories of all the players in all of MLB, to me, none were as intriguing as Albert Pujols' chase for 700 home runs.

With the start date of the 2020 season uncertain, it seems unlikely that Pujols will get a fair shake at it this year. He is under contract for one more season after 2020, but whether he gets to 700 relies on how big of an impact he'll have on the 2020 season at the plate.

MORE: 15 things we miss most about baseball

Because Pujols is buried on a largely mediocre team on the West Coast, people forget how good he was as a St. Louis Cardinal. He's a surefire, first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's been worth over 100 wins in his career, per Baseball Reference (100.8 bWAR). Since signing with the Angels, he's been good, not great, compiling a 14.2 bWAR over eight seasons. 

The chances of Pujols getting to 700 were already pretty slim. The slugger will enter the 2020 season 44 home runs shy of the 700 mark, and to get to that milestone in 2021, he'd have to join some pretty elite company.

In baseball history, there have only been 15 seasons (12 different players) in which a player age 40 or older has hit 20 or more home runs. If Pujols is going to reach 700, he's going to have to do something pretty historic over his next two seasons, one which will likely be shortened by the coronavirus pandemic. Unless, of course, a few miracles come to pass.

The first would be that the season gets underway sooner than expected and MLB is somehow able to squeak in 162 games. That's a tough ask. As an aside, it's also a dumb one, considering a season that stretches into December means that the offseason won't be the offseason, the 2021 World Baseball Classic will likely be a victim of that, and players would still be fatigued from the length of the year, the doubleheaders and all that jazz.

While players are seemingly open to that idea, it's just ridiculous all the way around, with logical impasses all over. But that's what makes a miracle a miracle, right?

Anyway, the other miracle is that Pujols finds the fountain of youth, takes a sip, turns back the clock and his age-40 body is rejuvenated, and he plays all (potential) 162 games and belts 30 home runs, instantly making the 2021 season must-watch in his chase.

Chances are, neither of these things will happen. And that's unfortunate, because with how people dig the long ball, baseball could use another home run milestone chase to excite fans in a homer-happy league. A-Rod's quest for 600 wasn't really sexy, given the steroid whispers beforehand, and that was the last big milestone chase we got.

Saying Pujols' chase for 700 is an "unfortunate casualty" is probably overstating it and insensitive given that, well, people are dying and the coronavirus is a serious, serious pandemic (reminder to practice safe, smart habits in accordance of CDC guidelines). But it's still a little upsetting knowing that we likely won't get to watch this chase gain momentum in 2020.