Today’s Los Angeles Angels are stocked with sensations. They have Mike Trout, the consensus best player in the world. Shohei Ohtani, the two-way star who makes history seemingly every week. Andrelton Simmons, one of the most impressive defensive players of this century. And somewhere down the list, lost among his of-the-moment teammates, Albert Pujols, the man who not long ago thumped so many home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals that fans judged him not against his peers, but against baseball’s all-time greats.
It can be easy to forget now that Pujols, officially listed as 38 years old but rumored to be older than that, has been diminished to a one-dimensional role player, but the first baseman was once one of greatest hitters to ever lift a bat. Over his 11-season run with the Cardinals, he reached nine All-Star Games, won three National League MVP awards, hit .328 while averaging 40 home runs a season, and led St. Louis to a pair of World Series titles. By the time he signed with the Los Angeles Angels in December 2011, he had already sealed his eventual place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
That version of Pujols is long gone, betrayed by bad knees and slowed reflexes, but the slugger’s accomplishments grow anyway. In the fifth inning of the Angels’ game against the Mariners on Friday, Pujols flipped a 1–0 sinker from Seattle pitcher Mike Leake into right field for his 3,000th career hit, making him the 32nd player to reach that mark and only the fourth (along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Alex Rodriguez) to do so while also tallying 600 home runs. The milestone was a useful reminder, amid a painful late-career swoon, of a time when Pujols stood at the forefront of his sport, as baseball’s main attraction.