With his next home run, Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols will break a tie with Hall of Famer Eddie Murray to take sole possession of 25th place on MLB's all-time home runs list. Pujols hit career homers No. 503 and 504 in Sunday's 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, thus moving into a tie with Murray, who played for five different teams over 21 seasons.
Though they may temporarily share a place in baseball history, Pujols and Murray carry very different reputations.
Known for his longevity more so than his peak performance, Murray never won an MVP award and arguably had his finest campaign in 1981, when the season was shortened by a strike. His "Steady Eddie" nickname could perhaps be considered a dig of sorts, as the former first baseman's detractors often mention that he was never quite an elite player, but rather an excellent compiler.
There's some truth to the criticism, as Murray never hit more than 33 home runs in season, and never finished higher than third in his league in wins above replacement (WAR).
However, Murray's peak years came during the power-depressed era of the early to mid-1980s, yet he still accumulated 504 home runs, 1,917 RBI (10th all time) and 3,255 hits (13th all time). He's one of just four players with both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, the others being Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Rafael Palmeiro.
Murray finished top five in the MVP voting on six separate occasions, including each year from 1981 to 1985. He won three Silver Slugger awards at first base, traditionally an offense-heavy position. In 1977, Murray took home AL Rookie of the Year honors, after smacking 27 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles.
Of course, whatever case one might make for Steady Eddie, Pujols is what all fans want their Hall of Famers to look like. He has three MVP awards with a strong case for at least one more. A pair of rings. Six Silver Slugger awards across three different positions. A lifetime .320/.408/.597 batting line.
He may not quite be what he once was, but Pujols is still one of the most feared hitters in baseball, and he could retire today and make the Hall of Fame without any question.
With no such plans in his immediate future, the Angels slugger will keep assaulting the record books instead.