At 43 years old, Albert Pujols has this physical status:
After graduating from high school a semester early in December 1998, he was given a baseball scholarship to Maple Woods Community College. Pujols hit a grand slam and turned an unassisted triple play in the first game of his only college season. Playing shortstop, he batted .461 with 22 home runs as a freshman before deciding to enter the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft.
Few teams were interested in Pujols because of uncertainty about his age, which position he would play, and his build. Tampa Bay Rays scout Fernando Arango recommended that his team sign Pujols, and quit his job when Tampa Bay failed to do so. Pujols was not drafted until the 13th round of the 1999 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft, when the St. Louis Cardinals selected him with the 402nd overall pick. Pujols initially turned down a $10,000 bonus and spent the summer playing for the Hays Larks of the Jayhawk Collegiate League (a summer league in the National Baseball Congress). When the Cardinals increased their bonus offer to $60,000, he signed.
Pujols began his minor league career in 2000 playing third base with the Peoria Chiefs of the single-A Midwest League. He batted .324 with 128 hits, 32 doubles, six triples, 17 home runs and 84 RBI, in 109 games. He was voted the league's Most Valuable Player and named to the All-Star team. Pujols also played 21 games with the Potomac Cannons in the high-A Carolina League that year, batting .284 with 23 hits, eight doubles, one triple, two home runs and 10 RBI. He finished the 2000 season with the Memphis Redbirds in the AAA Pacific Coast League (PCL), and after appearing in three regular season games with them, he batted .367 in the playoffs and was named the postseason Most Valuable Player (MVP) as the Redbirds won their first PCL title.
During spring training in 2001, incumbent first baseman Mark McGwire told Cardinals manager Tony La Russa that if he did not promote Pujols to the major league roster, "it might be one of the worst moves you make in your career." La Russa later recounted the "myth" that Pujols only made the Opening Day roster in 2001 because Bobby Bonilla was injured. According to La Russa, he and the rest of Cardinals management were impressed enough by Pujols that they decided to promote him to the big league club even before Bonilla's injury. Cardinals executive John Vuch, backed this up, calling the link between Pujols and Bonilla an "old wives' tale" and stating that the competition for the last roster spot was actually between Bonilla and John Mabry. Although the team did not require Pujols to fill any particular position, the Cardinals activated him to the Opening Day roster, and he started all season at third base, right field, left field, or first base.
On Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies on April 2, Pujols became the first major league player born in the 1980s. In that game, he recorded his first career hit, a single against pitcher Mike Hampton in an 8–0 loss. Four days later, he had three hits and three RBI – including his first home run – against the Arizona Diamondbacks' Armando Reynoso in a 12–9 win. On April 9, in his first career home game, Pujols hit a two-run home run in his first at bat against Denny Neagle of Colorado. Through 2015, he was one of three players to hit 20 or more home runs in their rookie year before July, along with Wally Berger (1930) and Joc Pederson (2015).
At midseason, Pujols became the first Cardinals rookie since Luis Arroyo in 1955 to make the All-Star Game. He finished the season batting .329 (sixth in the league) with 194 hits (fifth in the league), 47 doubles (fifth in the league), 37 home runs, and 112 runs. His 37 home runs led the Cardinals, topping Jim Edmonds's 30 and McGwire's 29. He was named the National League (NL) Silver Slugger Award winner for the third base position, and he finished fourth in NL Most Valuable Player (MVP) voting, behind Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Luis Gonzalez. He was unanimously named the NL Rookie of the Year after setting an NL rookie record with 130 RBI's (fifth in the league) and becoming the fourth MLB rookie to hit .300 with 30 home runs, 100 runs, and 100 RBI's.
The Cardinals finished the 2001 season with a 93–69 record and advanced to the playoffs as the National League wild card team. The team advanced to the NL Division Series (NLDS). In Game 2 on October 10, Pujols hit a game-winning two-run home run against Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson in a 4–1 victory. The Cardinals, however, were eliminated in five games, and Pujols had just two hits in 18 at-bats.
After playing several positions in 2001, Pujols spent most of 2002 in left field. He began the season batting cleanup but was moved in May to the third spot in the lineup, where he remained for the rest of his Cardinals career. Pujols hit his 30th home run and 100th RBI of the season in a 5–4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in August, making him the sixth Cardinal to have back-to-back 30-home-run seasons and the second Cardinal (the other was Ray Jablonski) to start his career with back-to-back 100-RBI seasons. The following month, Pujols hit a game-winning two-run single against Pete Munro in a 9–3 victory over the Houston Astros that gave the Cardinals the NL Central title. Pujols finished the year batting .314 (seventh in the NL) with 185 hits (tied for fourth in the NL), 40 doubles (eighth in the NL), 34 home runs (10th in the NL), 118 runs scored (second in the NL to Sosa's 122), and 127 RBI's (second in the NL). He became the first player in major league history to hit over .300 with at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored, and 100 RBI's in his first two seasons. Pujols finished second in MVP voting to Bonds, becoming the first Cardinal since Stan Musial to finish in the top four in MVP voting for consecutive seasons. At the end of the 2002 season, Chris Haft of MLB.com called him "an outstanding hitter."
Pujols's contributions helped the Cardinals finish third in home runs and second in batting average and RBI; the Cardinals' pitching staff also finished fourth in ERA. The Cardinals again reached the playoffs, and Pujols had three hits and three RBI in a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks in the 2002 NLDS. The team advanced to the 2002 NL Championship Series (NLCS), but lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants. Pujols had five hits, one home run and two RBI in the series.
Five Cardinals were named to the All-Star Game in 2003 while Pujols led the NL in votes. It was the first of eight straight seasons that Pujols would reach the All-Star Game. From July 12 to August 16, Pujols had a 30-game hitting streak, tied for the second-longest in Cardinals' history with Musial and behind only Rogers Hornsby's 33-game streak. On July 20, Pujols hit his 100th career home run, a game-winner in a 10–7 victory over the Dodgers. He became the fourth major leaguer to hit his 100th home run in his third season, along with Ralph Kiner, Eddie Mathews, and Joe DiMaggio. Pujols hit his 114th home run on September 20 in a game against the Astros, which tied him with Kiner for the most home runs by a player in his first three seasons.
In 157 games, Pujols hit 43 home runs (fourth in the league, behind Jim Thome, Richie Sexson and Bonds) and had 124 RBI's (tied with Sexson for fourth and behind Preston Wilson, Gary Sheffield and Thome). He became the youngest player since Tommy Davis in 1962 to win the NL batting title after batting .359, and he led the league in runs (137), hits (212), and doubles (51). Pujols joined Rogers Hornsby as the only players in the Cardinals' history to record more than 40 homers and 200 hits in the same season. Though his stellar play had Cardinals' fans chanting "M-V-P!" during home games as early as June, Pujols again finished second to Bonds in MVP voting. He won his second Silver Slugger Award and first Sporting News Player of the Year Award. Pujols' contributions helped the Cardinals rank second in batting average and third in home runs in the NL; however, the pitching staff posted a 4.60 ERA, which was below the league average, and the Cardinals missed the playoffs.
After receiving many awards in his first three seasons, Pujols was rewarded monetarily for his accomplishments on February 20, 2004, when he signed a seven-year, $100 million contract extension with a $16 million club option for 2011 with no-trade provisions. He was moved to first base in 2004 after the Cardinals traded Tino Martinez in the offseason. On June 16, he hit a walk-off home run against Reds pitcher Mike Matthews in the 10th inning of a 4–3 victory.
Pujols's highlights later in the season included a July game in which he hit five RBI and three home runs in a thrilling win over the rival Chicago Cubs, and another in which he broke up a no-hitter by Giants pitcher Dustin Hermanson. During a September game against the Rockies, he earned his 500th RBI, joining DiMaggio and Ted Williams as the only players to have 500 RBI in their first four seasons. He said he was confident there was going to be "a lot more." Although Pujols was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis during the second half of the season, he finished the season with a .331 average (fifth in the league), 196 hits (fifth), 51 doubles (second to Lyle Overbay's 53), 46 home runs (tied with Adam Dunn for second behind Adrián Beltré's 48), and 123 RBIs (third, behind Vinny Castilla's 131 and Scott Rolen's 124) in 154 games. He also led the league in runs scored, with 133. On defense, he tied for the league lead in errors by a first baseman, with 14. He finished third in MVP voting (behind Bonds and Beltré), joining Musial as the only Cardinals to finish in the top five in voting for at least four years in a row. He won the Silver Slugger Award at first base, the third position he won the award at. Pujols, along with teammates Edmonds and Rolen, earned the nickname "MV3" for their phenomenal seasons; Pujols led the three in home runs and batting average.
The Cardinals won the NL Central, aided by the MVP and pitcher Chris Carpenter, who won 15 games and had a 3.46 ERA his first season with the team. In Game 4 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Pujols hit a three-run home run against Wilson Álvarez and had four RBI as the Cardinals won, 6–2, and took the series three games to one. In Game 6 of the NLCS, Pujols had three hits, scored three runs (including the winning run), and hit a two-run home run off Munro in a 12-inning, 6–4 victory. The Cardinals won the series in seven games, advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1987. Pujols was named the NLCS MVP after batting .500 with four home runs and nine RBI. He was one of three Cardinals to bat over .250 in the series against the Boston Red Sox (after batting .333) as the Cardinals were swept by Boston in four games.
By 2005, many baseball fans thought that Pujols was the best Cardinal since Musial. Pujols picked up his 100th RBI of the season on August 31, joining Williams, DiMaggio and Al Simmons as the only players with 100 RBI in their first five seasons. Pujols hit his 200th career home run in a game against the Reds on September 30, making him the third-youngest major league player to reach that milestone (behind Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews) and the second-fastest to reach it (behind Kiner). In 161 games, Pujols batted .330 (second to Derrek Lee's .335 average) with 195 hits (fourth behind Lee, Miguel Cabrera and Jimmy Rollins), 38 doubles, 41 home runs (third, behind Andruw Jones's 51 and Lee's 46), 117 RBI's (tied with Burrell for second behind Jones's 128), and 129 runs scored (first in the league). For the first time in his career, he won the NL MVP award as Bonds was limited to 14 games due to an injury.
Pujols returned to the playoffs as the Cardinals won the NL Central for the second year in a row. He had five hits in nine at-bats with four runs scored and two RBI in the NLDS as the Cardinals swept the Padres. In Game 5 of the NLCS against the Astros, with the Cardinals trailing by two runs and only one out from elimination in the ninth inning, Pujols hit a game-winning three-run home run against Brad Lidge that landed on the train tracks in the back of Minute Maid Park. The Cardinals won 5–4. MLB.com writer Matthew Leach later called it "one of the most famous playoff home runs in recent years." Nevertheless, the Cardinals were eliminated in Game 6 by the Astros. Pujols batted .304 with two home runs and six RBI in the series.
Over two games in April 2006, Pujols hit home runs in four consecutive plate appearances, making him the 20th player to accomplish the feat. Pujols maintained after the game that he was more concerned with winning than the numbers: "I don't look at numbers," he said. "I don't know. I didn't know anything about [the record] until you guys brought it up. Because that's not me. I don't get locked in on numbers. I don't get locked in on anything like that. I get locked in on seeing the ball and helping my team out to win and hopefully doing some damage out there."
Pujols had three hits and four RBI, including his 1,000th career hit (a home run against Jerome Williams), as the Cardinals defeated the Cubs 9–3 on April 21, 2006. On June 4, he was placed on the disabled list (DL) for the first time in his career with a strained right oblique that kept him out for three weeks.
On August 22, Pujols hit a three-run home run and a grand slam against John Maine in an 8–7 loss to the Mets. On September 28, with the Cardinals trailing the Padres 2–1 in the eighth inning, he hit a three-run home run against Cla Meredith, helping the Cardinals win 4–2 and end a seven-game losing streak. The win preserved the Cardinals' 1.5-game division lead; La Russa later called it "the most huge of the huge ones he's hit."
Pujols finished the season with a .331 average (third to Freddy Sanchez's .344 and Cabrera's .339), 177 hits, 33 doubles, 49 home runs (second to Ryan Howard's 58), 137 RBI (second to Howard, 149) and 119 runs scored (tied with Matt Holliday, Hanley Ramírez, and Alfonso Soriano for fifth). Of his 49 home runs, 20 produced a game-winning RBI, breaking Willie Mays' single-season record set in 1962. He finished second to Howard in MVP voting and won the NL Gold Glove Award for first base. He won his first of four consecutive Fielding Bible Awards for the first base position.
Led by Pujols and Carpenter, the Cardinals won the NL Central and reached the playoffs for the third year in a row. In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Padres, he hit a game-winning two-run home run against Jake Peavy as the Cardinals won 5–1. He had a game-winning RBI against David Wells and had three hits in Game 2 as the Cardinals won 2–0. He batted .333 with a home run and an RBI in the series as the Cardinals defeated the Padres in four games. In Game 2 of the NLCS against the Mets, Pujols scored three runs as the Cardinals won 9–6. He batted .318 with one home run and one RBI in the series as the Cardinals defeated the Mets in seven games.
In Game 1 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers, he hit a two-run home run against Justin Verlander as the Cardinals won 7–2. In Game 5, he made a sprawling, flip-from-his-back play to rob Plácido Polanco of a hit as the Cardinals clinched the series, giving Pujols his first career World Series ring.
Near the beginning of the 2007 season in an April 22 game against the Cubs, Pujols hit a game-winning three-run home run against Ryan Dempster in the 10th inning of a 12–9 victory, tying Ken Boyer for second all-time on the Cardinals' home run list with his 255th. Pujols finished the season with 185 hits, 38 doubles and 103 RBI (a career-low). He was among the league leaders in batting average (.327, sixth) and home runs (32, tied for tenth). He scored 99 runs, ending his streak of seasons with at least 30 home runs, a .300 average, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI, at six. He grounded into a major-league-leading 27 double plays. He finished ninth in MVP voting, the first year he had finished outside the top five.
Pujols began 2008 by reaching base in 42 straight games, the longest streak to open a season since 1999. On June 11, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf muscle. Pujols hit his 300th home run against Bob Howry on July 4 in a 2–1 loss to the Cubs. He said after the game that to him it was "just another homer that goes out of the park. I'm happy to do it in front of our fans; they were waiting for it."
On September 11, in a 3–2 loss to the Cubs, Pujols hit his 100th RBI of the season against Rich Harden, making him the third player in major league history to start his career with eight seasons of at least 100 RBI (along with Simmons and Williams). He regretted that the milestone came in a loss, saying, "I wish it would have come with a great win. It would have been more special."
In 148 games in 2008, Pujols batted .357 (second to Chipper Jones's .364 average) with 187 hits (third, behind Reyes's 204 and David Wright's 189), 44 doubles (tied with Stephen Drew and Aramis Ramírez for fourth in the league behind Berkman and Nate McLouth's 46 and Corey Hart's 45), 37 home runs (tied with Ryan Braun and Ryan Ludwick for fourth in the league behind Howard's 48, Dunn's 40, and Delgado's 38), 116 RBI (fourth, behind Howard's 146, Wrights 124 and Adrián González's 119) and 100 runs scored. He grounded into a National League-leading 27 double plays. Pujols won his second NL MVP Award, and he won the Silver Slugger Award for the fourth time in his career. He was named The Sporting News Player of the Year for the second time in his career. For his work off the field, he was named the 2008 winner of the Roberto Clemente Award. He considered having Tommy John surgery after the season but underwent nerve transposition surgery on his right elbow instead to ease discomfort.
On April 25, 2009, Pujols picked up his 1,000th career RBI with a 441-foot grand slam against David Patton in an 8–2 victory over the Cubs. "I hit that ball as good as I can hit a ball," he said after the game. On July 3, he hit his 10th career grand slam against Weathers in a 7–4 victory over the Reds, breaking Musial's record for most grand slams by a Cardinal. The grand slam was also his 350th career home run, making him the third-fastest player to reach the milestone, behind Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. He received the highest number of votes in NL history for the All-Star Game that year.
Pujols had four hits, scored three runs, and knocked in five RBI on August 4, including a grand slam against Sean Green that tied the NL record for most grand slams in a season (five), in a 10-inning, 12–7 victory over the Mets. In 160 games, Pujols batted .327 (third, behind Ramírez's .342 and Pablo Sandoval's .330) with 186 hits (sixth), 45 doubles (second to Miguel Tejada's 46), 47 home runs (first), 135 RBI (third behind Fielder and Howard's 141) and 124 runs scored (first). He was unanimously named the NL MVP for the third time, tying Musial as the Cardinals' leader in that category. For the fifth time in his career, he won the Silver Slugger Award. He won the Sporting News MLB Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year, joining Williams and Joe Morgan as the only players to win it in back-to-back years. For the fourth year in a row, he won the Fielding Bible Award for first base.
Aided by the mid-season acquisition of Matt Holliday (who replaced Ryan Ludwick as the cleanup hitter) and the emergence of Adam Wainwright (who led the NL in wins), the Cardinals returned to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus. In the NLDS against the Dodgers, Pujols batted .300 with one RBI as the Cardinals were swept in three games. Following the postseason, Pujols had surgery to remove five bone spurs from his right elbow. The Cardinals called the surgery a "success," and Dr. James Andrews decided that Pujols did not need Tommy John surgery.
For April 2010, Pujols earned his first Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Month Award. He batted .348, 1.270 OPS, three home runs and 14 RBI with runners on base. Further, in situations with his team leading by one run, tied, or having the potential tying run on base, at bat, or on deck after the seventh inning ("late-and-close"), he batted .583 (7-for-12) with a home run, two doubles, three RBI and five runs scored.
On June 29, 2010, in an 8–0 victory over the Diamondbacks, Pujols hit five RBI and hit two home runs against Dontrelle Willis for his 37th career multi-homer game, which tied Musial's franchise record for multi-homer games. "It's pretty special," he said of tying Musial. "I'm blessed to have the opportunity to be compared sometimes with him."
On August 26, he hit his 400th career home run against Jordan Zimmermann in a 13-inning, 11–10 loss to the Nationals. He became the third-youngest player to reach the milestone – behind Griffey Jr. and Rodriguez – and he became the fourth-quickest player by at bats to reach the milestone (behind McGwire, Babe Ruth, Harmon Killebrew, and Thome). On September 11, in a 12-inning 6–3 loss to Atlanta, Pujols had three RBI and reached 100 RBI for the 10th consecutive year with a two-run double against Tommy Hanson. Only Simmons has a longer streak of 100 RBI seasons at the beginning of a career, with 11. Pujols joined Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Rodriguez in having 10 consecutive seasons of 100 or more RBI at any time in their career. Foxx and Rodriguez are the only two players besides Pujols to have 10 consecutive years of 30 home runs and 100 RBI. The next day, in a 7–3 victory over the Braves, he passed Musial to be the all-time Cardinals' leader in multi-home run games when he hit two home runs against Tim Hudson for the 38th time in a game.
In 159 games, Pujols batted .312 (sixth) with 183 hits (fifth) and 39 doubles (tied for eighth with Marlon Byrd); he led the league in runs scored (115), home runs (42) and RBI (118). He won his second Gold Glove Award for first base, and he won the NL First Base Silver Slugger Award for the sixth time. He finished second in the NL MVP voting to Joey Votto, who said he was "shocked" that Pujols only got one first-place vote.
Pujols and the Cardinals set a deadline for the start of 2011 spring training for contract extension negotiations but failed to reach an agreement. After Pujols struggled in his first 30 games of the season in batting .231, he batted .316 with 30 home runs in his final 117 games. Against the Cubs, he hit consecutive extra-inning walk-off home runs on June 4 and 5 for the first time since Albert Belle in 1995. Carpenter noted after the game that Pujols' slump earlier in the year was over: "He continues to do great things, there's no doubt about it," he said. "The things that he's done the last few days have been just like the old Albert."
On June 19 against the Royals, Wilson Betemit collided with Pujols, inducing a small fracture his left wrist and keeping him inactive until July 5. On July 30, in a 9–2 victory over the Cubs, he got his 2,000th career hit against Carlos Mármol, becoming the fifth Cardinal to reach 2,000 hits and 12th-fastest major leaguer by games to reach the milestone. In the Cardinals' final game of the season, against the Astros on September 28, he had the game-winning RBI against Brett Myers in the 8–0 victory, helping the Cardinals overcome a 10.5-game deficit to Atlanta to win the Wild Card. Pujols finished the season with 173 hits (tied for ninth with Aramis Ramírez), 29 doubles (a career-low), and 105 runs scored (tied for third with Justin Upton behind Ryan Braun's 109 and Matt Kemp's 115). He saw his streak of seasons batting at least .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI snapped when he hit 37 home runs (third, behind Fielder's 38 and Kemp's 39), but batted .299 with 99 RBI (seventh); however, only three other players in the major leagues matched him in those categories (José Bautista, Fielder, and Kemp), causing Tyler Kepner of The New York Times to write, "Even when Pujols struggles, he excels." He grounded into a major-league leading 29 double plays. He was fifth in MVP voting.
In Game 2 of the NLDS against the Phillies on October 2, Pujols had a game-winning RBI single against Cliff Lee in the 5–4 victory. He batted .350 with one RBI in the series as the Cardinals defeated the Phillies in five games. In Game 2 of the NLCS against the Brewers, he had four hits, three runs scored, one home run and five RBI, in a 12–3 victory. He batted .478 with two home runs and nine RBI in the series as the Cardinals defeated the Brewers in six games.
On October 22, in Game 3 of the World Series, Pujols had five hits, three home runs, four runs scored and six RBI in a 16–7 victory over the Rangers. He joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players in baseball history to hit three home runs in a World Series game, set a series record with 14 total bases, became the first player in series history to have hits in four consecutive innings, and tied records for most hits and most RBI in a World Series game. He had one hit and no RBI the other six games of the series but became a World Series champion for the second time as the Cardinals defeated the Rangers in seven games. After the season, he became a free agent for the first time in his career.
Three teams were reported to be interested in Pujols during the 2011 offseason: the Cardinals, the Miami Marlins, and the Los Angeles Angels. The Cardinals offered Pujols a 10-year, $210 million deal (with $30 million deferred), but Pujols rejected it. His wife, Deidre, explained on a radio talk show that they were "insulted" and "confused" that the Cardinals had initially offered Pujols a five-year deal. The Marlins reportedly offered Pujols a 10-year contract too, but on December 8, he signed a 10-year deal with the Angels worth around $254 million.
Pujols did not perform very well to begin the 2012 season, batting .217 with no home runs and four RBI in the month of April. Soon after the Angels called up top prospect Mike Trout and fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, Pujols's numbers began to rise, as he batted .323 with 13 home runs from May 15 through the All-Star Break. On July 31, he hit two home runs against Derek Holland in a 6–2 victory over the Rangers. After the game, Holland observed that Pujols had "definitely turned it around, no doubt about it... He had a slow start, but he's picked it up. He's a great hitter...." On August 14, Pujols had four RBIs, including a game-winning three-run home run against Ubaldo Jiménez in a 9–6 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
In 2012, Pujols batted .285 (at the time, a career low) in 153 games with 173 hits, 50 doubles (second to Alex Gordon's 51), 30 home runs, 105 RBIs (7th in AL), and 85 runs scored.
In 2013, Pujols had by far the worst season of his career to date, failing to play at least 100 games in a season for the first time. Pujols also posted career worsts in hits, runs scored, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Overall in 99 games, Pujols batted .258 with 101 hits, 19 doubles, 17 home runs, 64 RBI, and 49 runs scored. On August 19, 2013, Pujols was ruled out for the remainder of the 2013 season after suffering a foot injury.
In August 2013, on his St. Louis WGNU radio show, former Cardinals player Jack Clark accused Pujols of having used performance-enhancing drugs. Clark served as the Cardinals' hitting coach during the early part of Pujols's tenure in St. Louis. On the morning of August 9, Pujols issued a statement adamantly denying that he had ever taken PEDs. He denounced Clark's allegations as "irresponsible and reckless," and threatened to sue Clark and WGNU over the allegations. Partly due to legal threats from Pujols, InsideSTL Enterprises, which owns WGNU's weekday airtime under a time brokerage agreement, cut ties with Clark. On October 4, 2013, Pujols filed a defamation lawsuit against Clark. In response, Clark challenged Pujols, proposing that they both take polygraph tests to resolve who is telling the truth. However, on February 10, 2014, Clark apologized and retracted his accusations against Pujols, saying he had "no knowledge whatsoever" that Pujols ever used PEDs. "During a heated discussion on air, I misspoke," Clark said. In return, Pujols dropped the suit.
On April 22, 2014, Pujols hit his 499th and 500th home runs off the Washington Nationals' Taylor Jordan at Nationals Park, where he had hit his 400th career home run in the 2010 season. Pujols became the 26th player ever to reach the 500-home-run mark, the third-youngest to reach it, and the only player to hit Nos. 499 and 500 in the same game. On August 10, he played in MLB's longest game of the year, and the longest in the history of Angel Stadium, ending the 19-inning, 6-hours-and-31-minute contest against the Red Sox with a solo home run for a 5–4 final score. It was his first walk-off home run as an Angel and first since June 2011. On September 6, against the Minnesota Twins, Pujols collected his 2,500th career hit, a two-run go-ahead double off of Jared Burton in the 9th inning. He also passed the 1,500-run mark in the same game. In the process, he became the fifth player in major league history with 2,500 hits and 500 home runs while maintaining a .310 lifetime batting average, after Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, and Manny Ramirez.
For the 2014 season, Pujols batted .272 and grounded into an American League-leading 28 double plays. He was tied for the 3rd-highest salary in the AL, at $23 million.
After the 2014 season, Pujols traveled to Japan to join a team of MLB All-Stars playing against the All-Stars of Nippon Professional Baseball in the 2014 Major League Baseball Japan All-Star Series.
Before the 2015 season, Pujols enjoyed his first offseason in his time with the Angels in which he was both free of injury or recuperation from injury. However, his offensive production lagged behind his career levels the first month of the season. By the end of April, Pujols was batting .208 with three home runs and nine RBI in 86 plate appearances. The next month, Pujols' offensive production had started to come around. Between May 28 and June 22, he batted .356 with 15 homers, 30 RBI, and a 1.326 OPS. At this time, he was leading the American League in home runs with 23.
After batting .303/.395/.737 with 13 home runs in June 2015, Pujols was named AL Player of the Month for the first time and seventh overall monthly award. His home run total led the major leagues and 73 total bases tied Manny Machado for first in the AL. Remarkably, his batting average on balls in play was .218, significantly lower than the league average of about .300.
Selected to the All Star Game, Pujols was announced as a reserve for the American League. Due to an injury just days earlier with Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, Pujols instead started at first base. It was his 10th overall selection to the midsummer classic, and first as a member of the Angels.
On September 22, 2015, Pujols hit his 556th career home run to pass Ramírez for sole possession of 14th place on the all-time career home run leaderboard. In the last game of the season, on October 4, Pujols hit his 40th home run, the seventh time he had done so in a season. Among active MLB players, he trailed only Alex Rodriguez, with eight. With Trout also hitting 40 home runs, the 2015 Angels became just the 31st team in MLB history with multiple players to hit 40+ home runs in a season.
For the 2015 season, he batted .244/.307/.480, and he had the lowest batting average on balls in play (.217) of all major league players. He was tied for the 3rd-highest salary in the AL, at $24 million.
On April 30, 2016, Pujols became the 85th player to make 10,000 career plate appearances. On May 2, Pujols became the 20th player all-time to amass 5,000 career total bases. On August 17, Pujols joined Barry Bonds as the only other player to be intentionally walked over 300 times. Playing the Toronto Blue Jays on August 25, he reached 100 RBI for the 13th time in his career, the fifth player to do so.
While playing Cincinnati on August 29, Pujols hit his 26th home run and 103rd RBI of the season. The home run tied him with Frank Robinson for ninth place on the all-time home run list at 586, and allowed him to become the seventh player all-time with 1,200 career extra base hits, and the 21st to reach 1,800 RBI. On September 16, Pujols became the 16th player all-time to reach 600 career doubles.
Pujols batted .268 for the 2016 season. He tied for 2nd in the AL in double plays grounded into, with 24. He had the 6th-highest salary in the league, at $25 million.
On June 3, 2017, Pujols became the ninth player in Major League history to hit at least 600 home runs, when he hit a grand slam off of Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins. He was the fourth-youngest player to achieve the feat (behind Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron), and the first to hit a grand slam for his 600th home run.
For the 2017 season, Pujols played in 149 games and had 593 at bats, but set career-lows in batting average (.241), on base percentage (.286), slugging percentage (.386), doubles (17), and walks (37), while leading the majors by grounding into 26 double plays. He had the slowest baserunning sprint speed of all major league players, at 21.8 feet/second. He had the 6th-highest salary in the AL, at $26 million.
On May 4, 2018, Pujols recorded his 3,000th major league hit, against Mike Leake of the Seattle Mariners. On July 12, Pujols hit his 630th career home run, moving into a tie with Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth place all-time for that category. The next day, Pujols was placed on the 10-day disabled list due to left knee inflammation. He hit a single on August 10 for his 1,000th hit as an Angel, becoming the ninth player to record 1,000 hits in both the American League and National League. He had surgery on his left knee in August, ending his season, and on his right elbow to remove a bone spur in September.
In 2018, he batted .245/.289/.411 with 19 home runs and 64 RBIs (matching the lowest season total of his career). He had the slowest baserunning sprint speed of all major league players for the second consecutive year, at 22.2 feet/second. He was the sixth-oldest player in the American League. He had the 5th-highest salary in the AL, at $27 million.
On May 9, 2019, Pujols became the fourth player in major league history to record 2,000 RBIs, hitting a solo home run against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. A Tigers fan caught the 2,000 RBI ball but refused to turn it over to MLB officials, saying that he wanted to sleep on it before making a decision. In response, MLB refused to authenticate the ball. The fan, Ely Hydes, eventually decided that he wanted to return the ball to Pujols, who in turn refused, stating that the fan should either keep the ball or donate it to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Pujols hit his 200th home run as an Angel on June 13, becoming only the sixth player to hit 200 home runs with two different teams.
In 2019, he batted .244/.305/.430. Pujols had the lowest line drive percentage of all major league hitters (15.3%), and the 16.7% of balls he hit to the opposite field were the lowest in baseball. He had the second-slowest sprint speed of all major league players, at 22.5 feet/second. He was the third-oldest player in the American League, behind Ichiro Suzuki (who retired in March) and Fernando Rodney. He was tied for the 4th-highest salary in the AL, at $28 million.
At the beginning of the 2020 season, Pujols (at the age of 40) was the oldest player in the major leagues. On August 24, Pujols passed Alex Rodriguez to reach second on the all-time RBIs list with a single against the Astros. With his 2,087th RBI, he trailed only Hank Aaron's 2,297. (Babe Ruth has 2,214 RBIs as recognized by Baseball Reference, but only 1,989 on the official MLB list; MLB does not count pre-1920 RBIs because it was not yet an official statistic.) On September 18, Pujols hit his 661st career home run to pass Willie Mays for fifth place all-time.
In 2020, Pujols batted .224/.270/.395 with 6 home runs and 25 RBIs in 152 at bats. He had the slowest sprint speed of all major league players, at 22.0 feet/second. He was tied for the 7th-highest salary in the league, at $29 million.
Pujols began the 2021 season with the Angels. On May 6, 2021, the Angels designated Pujols for assignment. Through 24 games, Pujols was hitting .198/.250/.372 with five home runs. On May 13, Pujols cleared waivers and became a free agent.
In nine-plus seasons with the Angels, Pujols hit .256 with 222 homers and 783 runs batted in. During his time with the Angels, the team won the AL West once (in 2014) and won no postseason games.
In 2016, sportswriter Joe Posnanski of NBC Sports described Pujols as "a cautionary tale against big contracts" and "an overpaid designated hitter in the middle of the lineup for a going-nowhere Los Angeles Angels team".
In an August 7, 2018, article entitled "How the shift has ruined Albert Pujols," ESPN sportswriter Alden Gonzalez wrote:
On May 17, 2021, Pujols agreed to a one-year major league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made his Dodgers debut that night as the starting first baseman against the Arizona Diamondbacks. With his longtime number 5 having been assigned to Corey Seager, Pujols chose the number 55; both as nods to his two former teams, as well as the Bible. "If you know the bible," Pujols explained, "it's the number of grace. So I feel 5-5, double grace."
On May 20, Pujols hit his first home run as a Dodger, a two-run homer off Merrill Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In October, Scott Miller of The New York Times asserted that Pujols had "flourished beyond expectations, scorching lefties for a .306 batting average".
Overall, in 2021 he appeared in 85 games for the Dodgers and hit .254 with a .299 on base percentage, 12 homers, and 38 RBIs. For the second season in a row, he had the slowest baserunning sprint speed of all major league players, at 22.4 feet/second. His line drive percentage of 15.4% was the lowest in the major leagues, and his 16.7% of balls hit to the opposite field was the lowest in the majors. He was the oldest player in the league for the second season in a row, and had the fifth-highest salary at $30 million.
In his first postseason appearance since 2014, he appeared in nine games for the Dodgers, with five hits in 18 at bats for a batting average of .278. Pujols subsequently announced that he would play in the Dominican Professional Baseball League (LIDOM) in the offseason, for Leones del Escogido.
On March 28, 2022, Pujols signed a one-year contract to return to the St. Louis Cardinals and announced that 2022 would be his final season. He said, "There were a lot of teams interested. It took 12 hours, maybe even less, to get a deal done once we received a call from the Cardinals," adding: "We have the best fans in baseball. It feels like I never left." He was the oldest player in the major leagues for the third season in a row.
On May 15, Pujols made his pitching debut, the oldest player to do so since 1929. In a 15–6 blowout win against the San Francisco Giants, he gave up two home runs and four earned runs in the ninth inning. He became the 10th major league player to play 3,000 games on June 4 versus the Chicago Cubs, appearing as an injury replacement for Corey Dickerson. Against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 7, Pujols singled for his 3,320th career hit, passing Paul Molitor for tenth all-time in hits. On July 10, after Philadelphia had shut out St. Louis in three straight games, Pujols made a rare start against a right-handed pitcher, and his three hits, including a home run, helped spark a 4-3 win. The home run was Pujols' 1,377th extra-base hit, tying him for third all-time with Musial.
Pujols was chosen to be on the National League team for the 2022 Major League Baseball All-Star Game by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred as a "legacy" selection to honor his career achievements. He was also selected to participate in the 2022 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, where he advanced to the second round and fell one home run short of eventual winner Juan Soto.
On August 20, he passed Stan Musial for second place all-time in total bases, trailing only Henry Aaron. On August 22, he was named the National League Player of the Week alongside teammate Paul Goldschmidt after hitting .615 with three home runs and seven RBIs. On August 29, Pujols hit a third-inning home run off of Ross Detwiler of the Cincinnati Reds. Detwiler was the 450th unique pitcher to surrender a home run to Pujols, surpassing the previous total held by Barry Bonds.
On September 10 and 11, Pujols hit his 696th and 697th home runs at PNC Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates to move into fourth place on the all-time list. On September 14, he became the second player in MLB history to officially compile 2,200 RBIs. On September 23, Pujols became the fourth player to hit 700 career home runs. His 699th and 700th home runs came during consecutive at-bats during an 11–0 victory for the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. He hit No. 699 off Andrew Heaney, his 200th home run off a left-handed pitcher; and his 700th off Phil Bickford, his 500th home run off a right-handed pitcher. On October 2, he hit No. 702 in his last career home game, mirroring the home run he hit in his St. Louis debut two decades earlier. On October 3, he hit No. 703, which gave him sole possession of second place on the all-time RBI list, surpassing Ruth's total.
The Cardinals won the National League Central division, earning a berth in the 2022 Major League Baseball postseason and enabling Pujols' 10th and final postseason appearance. He went 2-for-8 in the National League Wild Card Series with the Philadelphia Phillies. In Game 2 on October 8, Pujols singled in his last two at-bats. The Phillies won the game, eliminating the Cardinals and bringing Pujols' playing career to an end.