Many people consider Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez to be the best player in baseball. Well, I'm here to tell you that they are all wrong—St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols actually holds that title.
Even if one were to simply disregard Pujols' staggering 2008 numbers, he would still put up quite the statistical case. In just his seventh full year in the majors, Pujols has already joined the game's elite, and holds such numbers as a .332 career BA, with 298 HR. If he were to continue his pace, he would have to be considered the best Cardinal of all-time.
You may think that isn't saying much, but such players as Stan "The Man" Musial, Rogers Hornsby, and Willie McGee have all put on the red and white. Those are some of the all-time greats in the history of the sport, especially Musial.
He may be hurt right now, but Pujols is tearing it up this season as well. He is third in the NL in batting average, at .347, and has hit 16 dingers.
If one were to take a poll of all the MLB pitchers regarding the most frightening hitter in baseball, the majority would most assuredly answer Pujols. Sure, A-Rod and Manny have power capabilities that are perhaps a tad stronger than Pujols', but Albert has the rare ability to hit balls that are out of the zone into the gaps.
Now it’s time to stop giving Pujols his offensive props, because his defense just happens to be overlooked due to his offensive prowess.
This is a man who will soon be considered for a Gold Glove, and he will absolutely have several on his mantle by the time his career is over. From gorgeous extra-base hit savers to stretching out for the much-needed double play, Pujols can do it all.
As Cardinals manager Tony La Russa once said in an interview, "Albert is everything you look for in a baseball player."
That’s an awfully bold statement coming from a Hall-of-Fame caliber manager about a kid who was drafted in the 13th round back in 1999.
While it is too early to give this man Hall-of-Fame assurance, he is well on his way to Cooperstown.
For those of you who really think Rodriguez is the best player in baseball, let’s take a look at the statistical breakdown. Counting only their first seven seasons, Pujols hit just nine fewer home runs than Rodriguez. That said, Pujols had a batting average nearly 50 points higher than A-Rod over that time.
Pujols is running under the radar because he is in a relatively small market, but one of these days he will make a nice speech as a first-ball HOF’er. For now, he’s just doing what he does best—crushing the opposition's pitching.