OK, we just saw one of the greatest displays of batting in World Series, nay baseball, history.
Albert Pujols, the perennial All-Star first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, took over the third game of the series between the Cards and the Texas Rangers with five hits, three home runs, six RBI and 14 total bases—a record offensive onslaught that put his personal signature on the series.
Even though Pujols hadn’t done much up until then, he did what we have all come to think as a normal outing for baseball’s best player. He did it in typical Pujols fashion that included a three-run blast that was so powerful, it literally took the wind out of the sails of the Rangers.
With seemingly common-place performances like this, is Pujols not only the best baseball player of our day, but the best first baseman ever?
Let’s cut to the chase. Is he better than, dare-I-say-it, Lou Gehrig?
It is hard to compare players from different eras for all kinds of reasons, including pitching, night games and travel, but in watching Pujols play at such a high level for so long, we are watching an iconoclastic player of historical proportions who can only be superseded by the standard bearer in his position.
Gehrig, known as the Iron Horse, is famous for his remarkable record of playing in 2,131 consecutive games.
At six feet, 200 pounds, the sweet-swinging lefty was a superior all-around athlete who stole home 13 times, won the Triple Crown and two MVP awards, had a fielding percentage of .991, a career batting average of .340 (ranking him 17th in baseball history) and hit 493 homers.
Unlike Pujols, who is the Babe Ruth of his team, Gehrig batted fourth in the lineup behind the Bambino. So yes, that is a big difference and possibly an advantage. The year Ruth stroked 60 homers, Gehrig led the league with 175 RBIs.
There were a lot of guys on when he got up.
Oh yeah, in the World Series, in which his team appeared seven times, Gehrig’s batting average was .360.
Then there is Mr. Pujols, a gargantuan man of 6’3”, 230 pounds, although he seems much taller and much larger. Is there anyone who has ever hit the ball harder?
Due to the modern era’s expansive postseason, Pujols' teams have been in almost double the number of postseason games as Gehrig. He has a batting average of .335 that includes 18 home runs.
In 11 seasons, Pujols, with three MVP awards to his name, already has 445 home runs and is bound to surpass Gehrig in that area. His 1,329 RBI is still 600 or so short of Gehrig’s career stats, but, at 31 years old, he could easily play for another half a dozen years and surpass him.
Pujols' fielding percentage is a highly respectable .994.
We have the luxury of watching Pujols put up those kinds of numbers, but more importantly, we get to watch a physically imposing player dominate the game like no one else currently playing.
It was interesting to see the impact of Pujols' homer on the Rangers the other night.
Both teams were throwing jabs at each other like well-matched prize fighters when he hit that three-run homer. It wasn’t just that he hit it, but how hard he hit it. He crushed it.
And, he so flustered the Rangers that Elvis Andrus booted the grounder hit to him by the next batter. There was no question after that blast that the Cardinals would win—had won—that game.
We never got a chance to see Gehrig play. Never got the chance to see him field or come up with the clutch hit in key situations. His record speaks for itself, and it makes it that much more difficult to decide who the better player is.
Suffice to say that in an era of fantasy when everyone always takes Pujols first in their draft, what would you do if Gehrig was available as well?