Monday, February 21, 2011
I was playing around on Baseball-Reference.com this morning, trying to escape from the resurgence of winter outside my window when I found myself staring at the yearly-WAR leader tables for the American and National Leagues. The list is a 'Who's Who' of MLB greats starting with the likes of Cap Anson and Old Hoss Radbourne in the late-1800s to Mays, Mantle, Ruth, Williams, Robinson, and on and on an on. When you look at the most recent WAR leaders you see the future HOFers, Griffey, A-Rod, Bonds, Suzuki...and Pujols.
In looking at the list, I realized that Pujols has a chance to do something THIS YEAR, that no other player has ever done...lead their league in WAR for seven consecutive years. Pujols has lead the NL in WAR for the past 6 seasons, a feat accomplished by only 2 other players in MLB history...Babe Ruth (1927-31) in the AL and Willie Mays (1960-65) in the NL.
Pujols has been getting more coverage than normal of late due to his on-going contract situation with the Cardinals and I thought I would shamelessly capitalize on that. His stat sheet truly is a work of art, a 10-year stretch to start a career which rivals any comparison in MLB history. 3-MVP awards, 9 top-5 MVP voting finishes, 9 All-Star appearances, 6 Silver-Slugger awards, Rookie of the Year, etc. Numbers-wise, he's already a first-ballot HOFer. When you think about what he might be able to accomplish if he can stay healthy and play till he's 40, maybe 42?...it's truly mind-boggling. 800 career HRs? A shot at the all-time RBI lead? These things are possible.
Pujols is one of those players that your kids will be jealous you got to see play. He's once-in-a-lifetime talent. That Pujols is great is nothing new, but to realize he's on a brink of setting records and making history is worth appreciating. I myself have had the chance to see Pujols play, last year at a Rockies game. He did nothing of note during the game, but it was cool to watch him, to hear the crowd go a little quieter when he was at the plate, to sense the collective disappointment when he made an out. He's the modern-day Mantle or Mays, truly great as you watch him, with the chance to transcend the game itself. I know he has the personal ambition to become the "best ever" and I've read that his work ethic is truly inspiring which makes me think he has all of the tools to excel like he already has been for 10 years now.
I've always been fascinated by true talent and greatness. Whether it be a musician (Glenn Gould, Yo-Yo Ma), a businessman, chefs (Robuchon, Keller), athletes, scientists, etc it is always their attention to detail that sets them apart, and their level of focus and determination that makes them great. Pujols has the elements of greatness and I hope, over the next few years, we get to watch him continue his steady march to the top of the baseball record books.