The Machine heads into the twilight of his career as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.
On the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 14, Albert Pujols registered a fourth-inning RBI single to right field. The hit was the 3,167th of his career, passing Adrian Beltre for the most hits by a foreign–born player. Pujols’s 655 career home runs, 2,067 runs batted in, 658 doubles, 5,845 total bases, and 1,823 runs scored all rank first among players born outside the United States.
So, is Albert Pujols the best foreign-born player to ever play the game? I would venture to guess that that answer would vary greatly depending on where you are and who you ask.
Folks in Pittsburgh would certainly argue Roberto Clemente was one of the greatest to play the game during his career.
Baseball fans in San Francisco would share stories of the “Dominican Dandy,” Juan Marichal, making National League hitters look foolish in his prime.
Those in Seattle would remind us of the dynamic performance or Ichiro Suzuki that lead to a new wave of MLB players from the Far East.
North-siders would bring up Slammin’ Sammy Sosa and Fergie Jenkins and those in the Twin Cities would reminisce about the glory days of Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, and Bert Blyleven.
Fans in Montreal and Boston would surely mention names like Vladimir Guerrero, Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz among the best foreign-born players.
Yankees fans in the Bronx would remind us that Panamanian Mariano Rivera was just inducted into Cooperstown as the first ever unanimously voted Hall of Famer.
One thing is for certain: the past 50 years have opened the game of baseball to many great foreign–born players that were absent for much of the first century of MLB’s existence. This has brought a large number of players from Latin America none better that Dominican right-handed slugger, Albert Pujols. There are very few that will object to the claim that he is among the greatest right–handed hitters in the game’s history. Pujols still has another two years on his contract and is wrapping up his age-39 season, a year in which he has slugged more than 20 home runs and 85 runs batted in so far in the early weeks of September.
While the Angels invested heavily in acquiring Pujols for the latter portion of his record–breaking career, it will always be his first decade in St. Louis that sets him apart from the others. During those years with the Cardinals, he was a three-time N.L. Most Valuable Player and runner-up for the award three other seasons. He also led St. Louis to a pair of World Series championships during his 11 years as a Cardinal. That’s greatness unlike any other foreign-born player.
Like Clemente before him, Pujols is also a humanitarian who is committed to using his time off the field to give attention to ending human trafficking, human rights, and other causes. This, probably more than his on the field performance, is what separates Pujols from the other greats. His desire to use his gifts to help others is the true testament to Pujols and his legacy.
Angels fans may not have experienced the prime years of Pujols’s playing career, but he has been an incredible mentor to Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and other young players during his Angels career. Countless rookie Angels have mentioned repeatedly just how important it is to them to have Pujols veteran presence in the clubhouse.
And why wouldn’t they?
After all, he’s the greatest foreign-born player to ever play the game.
Better than Clemente?
Just power numbers.
Where are his gold gloves?
Clemente had 12
Pujols 10 all star games in 20
Clemente had 15 in 18 seasons.
Pujols was great in the 2000 decade were pitching had an astronomical ERA OF 4.40
Clemente won 4 Batting titles in the 60’s dead ball era. The 60’s decade ERA were just 3.58 so Clemente definetly faced better pitching.
The best foreign player is Roberto Clemente.
A 5 tool player which Pujols is not.
Specially with his 9 seasons with Angels with a disappointing.257 avg.