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News » It's hard to find words to describe Cards star Pujols has another remarkable day as he continues to win games.


It's hard to find words to describe Cards star Pujols has another remarkable day as he continues to win games.


It's hard to find words to describe Cards star Pujols has another remarkable day as he continues to win games.
On Albert Pujols' first day in the big leagues, the Cardinals opened the 2001 season at Coors Field in Denver. It was an uneventful game, with the Rockies winning 8-0. Pujols got the first hit of his career with a single to center in the top of the seventh.

But something unusual happened that day. Stan Musial unexpectedly showed up. It wasn't planned. The Man was in Denver to appear at an autograph show, and so he headed to Coors Field.

If memory serves me correctly, Musial told me that he walked up to the media gate and said, "Hello, I'm Stan Musial and I'd like to see the ballgame." Why, yes. Come on in. And when word of Musial's presence spread, a team official invited Musial to throw out the first pitch.

Looking back on it, I think it was a profound moment.

On the day that Pujols made his major-league debut, Musial magically appears, almost out of nowhere.

This was a divination.

The Man as an oracle, if you will.

The greatest player in Cardinals history surfaces in a stadium 850 miles from St. Louis, and offers a ceremonial Baseball blessing, as the prodigy, Pujols, watches and waits in the dugout. And the prodigy launches a career that will make him the second-greatest player in Cardinals history.

OK, so I'm going a little "Field Of Dreams" on you here.

Baseball is like that. It is a sport that invites the discovery of a deeper meaning to things. But it starts with this simple truth: Pujols is a remarkably talented player.

And on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium, Pujols had another smashing day. He walloped an inner-half Roy Oswalt fastball for a grand slam, then reached low to swat a Wesley Wright slider out of the park for a three-run shot. This Pujols barrage of seven RBIs carried the Cardinals to an 11-2 victory. Just another day of yard work for Albert.

Really, I don't know how to describe Pujols anymore.

Could use some help here.

Adam Wainwright?

"I am just blown away by that guy," said Wainwright, Saturday's winning pitcher. "I think he's the best hitter of all time. I think there has never been a better hitter than him. And I know I didn't see them all, but I just don't think there could be."

It's all been said about Pujols. But I believe one aspect of his career has been overlooked, if only a little:

He's a winner.

Pujols just keeps winning games - with his bat, his defense, and his base running.

We've talked about Pujols' statistics and his awards, but what about his winning?

Since Pujols made that debut in 2001, the Cardinals have a regular-season record of 731-570, or the most victories in the National League. In the majors, only the Yankees (777) and Red Sox (741) have won more games than the Cardinals .

"And we've been in two World Series which I'm pretty proud of," Pujols said. "I'm 29 years old and this is the ninth season of my career. To be in five postseasons and two World Series, I have accomplished a lot of things in this game that guys who play 20 years never accomplish. So I'm pretty blessed to be in an organization that every year puts a team on the field that enables us to win."

Sure, Pujols has been surrounded by some fine players, but let's not get carried away here. I don't include Pujols in these listings, but since he became a Cardinal, the team has started 13 catchers, 18 first basemen, 19 second basemen, 14 shortstops, 22 third basemen and 42 outfielders. They've started 47 pitchers and used 100 pitchers overall.

The cast keeps changing but the Cardinals keep winning.

The one on-field constant is Pujols. The Cardinals have a .693 winning percentage when he drives in a run, and he's knocked in at least one run in 554 games. The Cardinals are 209-86 when Pujols homers. For his career, Pujols is hitting .345 with runners in scoring position. And over his eight-plus seasons, Pujols has more game-winning RBIs (150) and go-ahead RBIs (246) than any major-league player.

"Never take him for granted," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I literally thank whatever made it happen that I had a chance to see this guy all these years. That's how we should all feel."

To some extent, Pujols is being taken for granted.

The Cardinals are cutting payroll and trying to go with home-grown talent at a time when Pujols is still delivering peak-level performances. If the Cardinals prospects materialize and become legitimately good major-league players, great. But if these prospects fail to come through, the franchise will have wasted several seasons of Pujols at his best.

And that would be a travesty. If the day comes when Pujols doesn't see a commitment to winning from ownership, then what?

Pujols is signed through 2010 but the team has an option for 2011.

Which means Pujols has only 480 games left in a Cardinals uniform until his contract expires.

That's not much fun to think about, is it?


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 12, 2009

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