When selecting superlatives like "the greatest player of all-time," there's a natural tendency to look back to the past. Without considering a player's full body of work, we are hesitant to bestow honors better left for a day in the distant future.
I think this nostalgic approach deters our ability to appreciate what is right in front of us at the present time.
Looking at the photo today, it seems like an apt analogy. As we look back at the past, we may ignore what our attention should have been focused on all along: Albert Pujols is in the midst of his ninth season as a big leaguer. Each season has been a remarkable display of consistent dominance.
If you take his lowest total from each major statistical category, his line would look like this:
32 home runs, 103 RBI, 177 hits, 99 runs, and a .314 batting average
Yeah, that would be a bad year.
At his current pace this season, Pujols would finish with 50 home runs, 135 RBI, 178 hits, 119 runs, and a .319 batting average. He's also on pace to steal a career-high 21 bases.
Pujols will only be 29 years old when the last pitch of the World Series is thrown. While it is hard to predict what may happen in the future, my guess is that the end of the 2009 season is a great mid-point in the career numbers of Pujols.
If you accept this premise for a moment, then we're looking at historic numbers: 738 home runs; 2,224 RBI; 3,418 hits; 2,132 runs; and a .334 batting average.
Those numbers certainly put him in the conversation among the greatest of all time. Pujols has shown defensive versatility by starting at least one game at every position except center field, catcher, and pitcher. He's also shown defensive greatness, winning a gold glove in 2006.
Let's be honest---all we can do is speculate on the future. Concentrate on the present with Albert Pujols as we are watching the best to ever play the game.