In a season when you would occasionally hear mumbling about what might be ailing Albert Pujols, you could get a pretty good idea that the St. Louis Cardinals’ amazing first baseman was being held to a standard so high you could get dizzy just thinking about it.
Lo and behold, as the dog days of August unfold, it turns out that after years of pundits debating Pujols’ chances of being the first National League Triple Crown winner in what would now be 73 years, his 2010 season appears to offer one of the best chances yet to pull off that remarkable feat.
(Bio-illustration by Ronnie Joyner; www.philadelphiaathletics.org)
Actually, in Albert’s case, it could be something more like the Quadruple Crown, since he could easily end up leading the National League in Runs as well as the traditional categories of batting average, home runs and RBIs.
All this happens in a season when, for a while anyway, Albert seemed a bit off his game, kind of in the same way we used to think about Tiger Woods several years ago when he went more than a handful of tournaments without winning.
And while we kind of quietly looked the other way, Albert managed to stay close enough to the league leaders in every category except restaurants visited that his apres All-Star hitting spree has now put him in the Redbird, er, catbird seat in vying for that elusive Triple Crown.
I know we’re going to hear a lot more about it in coming weeks, especially with him a mere 7 points off the batting lead and now sitting atop the league in both home runs and ribbies. Just to make it even more unbelievable, he could also conceivably lead the league in – deep breath needed here – hits, total bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, intentional walks, and runs created. If you wanted to mix in a handful of SABR-like exotic formulas, you could add another five or six categories beyond that.
Not bad for a guy not necessarily having the most prodigious season in an 11-year career that already puts him in Cooperstown even if he decided to call it quits tomorrow afternoon. I just like to say stuff like that to feel that massive, collective shudder throughout the great Midwest and beyond.
It seems likely that the occasion of his 400th home run, which figures to already be in the books by the time this blog snippet winds up in my column in Sports Collectors Digest, is going to put all the talk about a Triple Crown into high gear.
Truth is, in Albert’s case, we ought to simply leave that topic on the table just about every year as a matter of course.
The other reason to like his chances is the realization that the last time the Triple Crown was won in either league, 1966 and 1967 in the American League, was at a time when the offense was taking a pounding in a pitcher-dominated era that ultimately led to the lowering of the pitching mound after 1968 and ultimately to the arrival of the designated hitter five years after that.
This too, is such a time, in case you haven’t noticed all those no-hitters or perfect or quasi-perfect games being tossed around.