It wasn't as if Albert Pujols needed yet another category to prove his greatness, was it?
Did we need him to post yet another .300-30-100-100 year? Much more on that in a minute.
Ironically, The Machine is in the midst of what may end up being his worst year statistically, yet he is coming on strong. His recent, Pujolsian-like production may or may not be enough to propel his St. Louis Cardinals to their seventh postseason appearance in 11 years. Much of that will depend on whether the Cards stay hot and the Wild Card-leading Atlanta Braves stay cold.
In many ways, the 2011 season has been Albert's greatest test as a player and pressure performer. Unable to come to terms with Cardinals management on a long-term contract, the consensus best player on the planet has struggled for much of the year. He has battled career uncertainty and a fractured arm (that sidelined him for 15 days, but may have put the average healer on the pine for four or more weeks).
For much of the year, he struggled (perhaps a relative term) at the dish, and the two-time Gold Glover was even making more errors than usual. Was the machine...gasp, only human?
Going into tonight's action, Pujols has boosted his batting average all the way to .304 (terrific, if still low for the active career batting leader, at .329), has slugged an NL-best 36 homers, driven in 97 and scored 99.
Could it be that Albert—for the 11th time in his 11-year career—is headed for another .300/30/100 season?
And that's not all...