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Albert Pujols joins 600 home run club

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Albert Pujols joins 600 home run club (AP file photo)

Angels slugger becomes ninth ever to reach milestone

One of baseball’s most exclusive clubs has added a new member.

Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols etched his name into the annals of the game when he launched a grand slam off Minnesota Twins starter Ervin Santana for his 600th career homer. With the blast, Pujols becomes only the ninth player in MLB history to reach that milestone.

Pujols joins Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Alex Rodriguez (696), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Jim Thome (612) and Sammy Sosa (609). He’s the first to reach the mark since Thome back in August of 2011 and the first ever to hit a grand slam for number 600.

This is the 17th big league season for Pujols, who at 37 is the fourth-youngest to reach the milestone – only Ruth, Aaron and A-Rod were younger. In addition, he is just the third player ever to join the 600-600 club (600 homers, 600 doubles); only Bonds and Aaron accomplished the feat before him.

He’s likely to climb a few slots on the list before the season is out, too. Pujols will surely pass Thome and Sosa at some point in 2017; he’d need to get really hot from here on in to reach Griffey before next season, but it remains a possibility, however remote.

There are a number of other rarely-reached round numbers that Pujols is likely to hit at various points this season. He may have already passed Mel Ott for 12th place on the RBI list by the time you read this and has a real shot at reaching 1,900 for his career; if he manages a couple of hot streaks, he might even make it into the top 10 before the season is out. He’ll probably cross the 1,700 threshold for runs scored in by the All-Star break. And while he almost certainly won’t join the 3,000 hit club this season, he’ll hit the mark early in 2018 if he stays on the field.

Upon entering the league in 2001, Pujols almost immediately became one of the preeminent hitters in the major leagues. The 11 seasons he spent in St. Louis are among the greatest starts to a big league career in history; while the five-and-a-bit seasons he’s been a member of the Angels (following his signing of a 10-year, $240 million free agent contract) haven’t been up to the lofty standard he set earlier, he has still added over 150 home runs to his total over that stretch thus far.

Yes, the slugger’s health has certainly deteriorated as Pujols has aged. The reality is that the clock is ticking on his effectiveness. He’s never again going to be the offensive force that he was for his first decade in the majors – the combination of health concerns and general mileage has caught up with him. But even with his All-Star days behind him, his still-potent star power and outsized contract ensures that he’s going to be given every opportunity to stay in the lineup.

Albert Pujols may have arrived at the compilation phase of his time in the game, but it doesn’t change the fact that for a decade, he was one of the greatest hitters baseball has ever seen. His statistical record will only grow more impressive as he makes his way through the twilight of what has been a truly magnificent career.

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