Albert Pujols Passes Willie Mays in Home Runs, if Not Dominance

Relegated to a part-time role for a basement-dwelling team, Albert Pujols — the man they used to call The Machine — stepped to the plate in the fifth inning of Friday’s face-off between the Angels and the Texas Rangers.

The 40-year-old fell behind in the count, 1-2, before taking a mighty cut at a 91-mile-per-hour fastball, sending it 387 feet into the left field stands for his fifth home run of the season and the 661st of his career, passing Willie Mays for the fifth most in major league history.

For Pujols, unquestionably one of the greatest hitters to ever set foot in a batter’s box, passing Mays’s famous total was another feather in a cap that already has many.

By Jay Jaffe’s career-evaluation tool, JAWS , which attempts to account for a player’s peak in addition to his total output, Pujols’s incredible stretch from 2003 to 2009 pushes him past the Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx, making him the second-best first baseman in baseball history, trailing only Lou Gehrig.

But if you just look at his totals, and his outrageous peak, you miss a steep and prolonged decline, one that essentially cleaves his career into two distinct chapters: living baseball god for the St. Louis Cardinals and something far less than that for the Angels.

His on-field deterioration over the last nine seasons has been a bit more stark alongside Trout, who many feel has a chance to eventually be considered Mays’s true successor as the game’s greatest all-around player.

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