But, first, it is important to sum up just how incredible his career has been.
An easy way to understand Pujols’s massive impact is to look at where he stands among his contemporaries. He leads all active players in games, plate appearances, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in, walks, total bases, sacrifice flies and intentional walks.
He won three Most Valuable Player Awards, was the best player on two World Series-winning teams, and is one of just 20 position players in baseball’s modern era to accumulate 100 wins above replacement, or WAR. Earlier this season, he passed Alex Rodriguez for third place on the career R.B.I. list, with his 2,097 entering Friday trailing only Hank Aaron (2,297) and Babe Ruth (2,214).
He’s one of just four players — Aaron, Rodriguez and Mays are the others — to have 3,000 hits and 600 home runs. By Jay Jaffe’s career-evaluation tool, JAWS, which attempts to account for a player’s peak in addition to his total output, Pujols’s incredible stretch from 2003 to 2009 pushes him past the Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx, making him the second-best first baseman in baseball history, trailing only Lou Gehrig.
In other words, there is no way to look at Pujols’s career and not conclude that he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But if you just look at his totals, and his outrageous peak, you miss a steep and prolonged decline, one that essentially cleaves his career into two distinct chapters: living baseball god for the St. Louis Cardinals and something far less than that for the Angels. His on-field deterioration over the last nine seasons has been a bit more stark alongside Trout, who many feel has a chance to eventually be considered Mays’s true successor as the game’s greatest all-around player.