Jose Alberto Pujols (January 16, 1980-) wowed St. Louis Cardinal fans, as well as fans throughout the National League for 11 seasons and was named The Sporting News Player of the Decade. The St. Louis Cardinals took Albert in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB June Amateur Draft and he made his Major League debut in 2001 at the behest of then Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire. Pujols did not disappoint as he broke in the Major Leagues hitting .329 with 37 home runs (one shy of the rookie record) and setting a rookie RBI record with 130, as he was the unanimous choice to National League Rookie of the Year. He also earned his first of six Silver Slugger Awards and his first of nine All-Star Game selections. From the start, Albert has been the model of consistency as he batted above the .300-mark in his first ten seasons, and has collected 150 or more hits and 30 or more home runs in each of his first 11 campaigns. Pujols has finished in the top ten in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting in every season from 2001 to 2011, winning the award three times (2005, 2008, 2009) and finishing second four times. Albert Pujols, Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx and Alex Rodriguez are the only player in MLB history to hit 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI in ten consecutive seasons. Albert led the NL in runs five times, four times in total bases, three times in slugging percentage, twice in home runs and once in hits, doubles, batting average and on-base percentage.
Albert was a key component to the St. Louis Cardinal playoff runs and batted .330 in the playoffs with 18 home runs and 52 RBI leading the Cards to the 2006 and 2011 World Series titles. He played his entire career with the Redbirds (2001-2011), but signed a $252M contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2011, breaking the hearts of Cardinals fans who hoped to see the greatest player of their generation retire in St. Louis. Albert has won two NL Hank Aaron Awards, two NL Gold Gloves at first, six Player of the Month awards and the 2008 Roberto Clemente Award as the “player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Sadly, since joining the Angels in 2012, Albert has suffered through strings of debilitating injuries, even limiting him to only 99 games in 2013 – the lowest number of games in his career. Albert became the 26th player in history to reach the 500 home run mark in early 2014, and at 34 was also the third youngest to reach the milestone, behind Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx who were both 32.