SAN DIEGO – Extremely confident even at 42 years old that he could still play at a high level, Cardinals star slugger Albert Pujols said he announced his retirement plans back in Spring Training to avoid the exact predicament he now finds himself in.
With him having hit 19 home runs this season to get within two long balls of 700, Pujols said he’s already heard the claims that he should play beyond 2022 and continue cranking out as many home runs as possible. However, he decided long ago that this would be his final season – regardless of how many home runs he hit or how close to 700 he was. Not even his stellar second-half surge – one that has seen him smash 15 home runs since early July – has caused him to waver on that decision, he said.
“I think Yadi and myself could play a couple of more years if we decided to do that, but at the end of the day, you have to go with your heart,” Pujols said, referring to Yadier Molina. “For myself, I said it in Spring Training and said it early because I knew something like this was going to happen. I knew if I had a good year, or a lot of success, people thought I would change my mind. But when I say something, I will do it. So, I’m going to retire after the World Series, enjoy my life, my career and my family.”
When the Cardinals were contemplating signing Pujols prior to the season, the slugger told manager Oliver Marmol that he had one more productive season left in him. Marmol has marveled at how Pujols was able to make adjustments to his swing and figure things out on the fly after hitting just two home runs in April and May and going homerless in June. Marol said he trusted Pujols when he said he had one more solid season left in his 42-year-old body and he trusted that Pujols would figure things out.
“When he says he’s got one more then that’s what he’s got, and I believed him” said Marmol, who has been friends with Pujols for more than 15 years. “He’s very comfortable with what he’s been able to accomplish in his career, and whether he hits 700 or not, he’ll sleep just fine at night.”
On the subject of 700 home runs, Pujols scoffed at the notion that he is “chasing” 700 home runs. Pujols doesn’t like discussing the numbers he has compiled throughout his career – even a historic number such as 700 that would put him in the class of Barry Bonds (762 home runs), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).
“I’m not chasing anything," he said adamantly. “That’s something [the media] is playing with. I’ve never chased any numbers and 22 years later I’m definitely not going to chase anything. In my career, I’ve been so blessed with everything that I’ve accomplished in my life.
“What I’m chasing right now is another ring,” Pujols continued. “That’s what I’m chasing for the city of St. Louis and for our fans and that’s why I signed back this year. Going back to St. Louis, I knew we were going to have a great ballclub and hopefully get the chance [to win a championship] and hopefully finish this chapter that I started 21 years ago.”