Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Did the world stop when Albert Pujols hit his 500th home run?
But should it have? Well that's up for debate.
The reaction seemed a bit muted, did it not? There wasn't any Cal Ripken victory lap or a mad scramble for the baseball like when Barry Bonds used to splash homers all over the bay. Just a few high fives, one curtain call and then business as usual at Nationals Park.
Heck, the guy who caught lucky 500 didn't even keep it. Remember when people used to sell those things on eBay for $100,000?
Pujols has never been one to showboat so maybe the ho-hum response was appropriate. Or maybe he just didn't give us enough time to process it.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Pujols is the first player to hit homers 499 and 500 in the same game. Instead of the usual weeks of buildup, we had all of 82 minutes to prepare for history.
And then it was gone.
Why didn't the moment last longer? Is it because steroids in baseball have jaded us to the point where every accomplishment is taken with a grain of salt? Or is it simply because Pujols, once a fantasy supernova with the strength to move oceans, has been a shell of his former self in recent seasons?
All of these things are true on some level. And crazy as it sounds, the industry I work in may be to blame.
Fantasy sports and its cutthroat "what have you done for me lately?" culture has changed the way we look at certain accomplishments. Pujols had a good game Tuesday but if he goes 0-for-4 with two strikeouts tomorrow, we'll be all over him, completely ignoring the gravity of the insane milestone he just reached.
And it's true, 25 other players have accomplished the same feat as Pujols. Five hundred home runs is hardly original. But doesn't it still mean SOMETHING?
I'll tell you what it means. First, it means Pujols has been great for a long time. The guy started his career with 12 straight 30-HR seasons. That's preposterous.
The other thing it shows is that he's STILL really good. Name another player in the major leagues this season with eight home runs. You can't do it!
Think of how many guys have stalled out in the mid-400s. Dave Winfield, Vlad Guerrero, Carl Yastrzemski, Mike Piazza ... none of them made it where Pujols now resides. And Pujols (if his birth certificate is to be believed) is still only 34! He could be doing this until he's 40.
Here's a stat for you. Last year in the major leagues, 940 different players logged at least one at bat. We've seen tens of thousands of hitters in the last 100 years. And only 26 have done what Pujols has now done. That's pretty incredible.
I heard someone make the comparison to Derek Jeter reaching 3,000 hits. Nothing against Jeter, but do you know how many of those were singles (2,484, if you really wanted to know)? Jeter hits bloopers to right field. Pujols blasts 400-foot cannon shots.
Another reason we should be embracing Pujols is because of what he stands for. Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez have tarnished the game with their connections to steroid use. Meanwhile, Pujols' authenticity has never been in question. He did things the hard way, the right way.
Not that Pujols has been slumming it with his $240 million contract. And trust me, Pujols' ungodly salary has definitely changed our perception of him in recent years. It's tough to be the people's champion when you're making more than entire teams (Hello, Houston Astros).
To me it's scary that we can't appreciate Pujols because at some point, as more and more human beings walk this Earth, the 500 HR club will expand to 30 and maybe even 40 members. And where does that leave them? Will they even get a pat on the back?
For someone who's never hit a home run, even in Little League against guys throwing 55 mph, I can understand how monumental this accomplishment is. I just hope history remembers it the way I do.
Take your victory lap, Albert. I still appreciate you.