While the main attraction the Los Angeles Angels bring to Wrigley Field this weekend is Mike Trout, one cannot forget the many times future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols played here frequently.
For the first time since 2016, the Los Angeles Angels visit the Friendly Confines for a weekend set. Alongside the great Mike Trout is another legend, Albert Pujols. A name that once made Chicago Cubs fans cringe just thinking about him. While he does not come around here too often anymore, he was once a regular visitor when he was in his prime as a St. Louis Cardinal.
From 2001-2011, Pujols would step up to the plate at Wrigley Field, gifted with showers of boos. So many times those boos were quickly silenced when he would swing away, and the ball would end up on Waveland Avenue. He was a bonafide Cub-killer and one of, if not the best hitter in all of baseball. It is hard to believe he has been an Angel since 2012.
Before looking at his numbers against the Cubs, first, we have to remember just how good he was. As a Red Bird, he slashed .328/.420/.617 with 445 home runs, a 1.037 OPS and 170 OPS+ in 1,705 games. Honors included nine All-Star nods, three MVPs, six Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves, a batting title and two-time World Series champion. When he was in Cardinal red, his team made the postseason eight times while the Cubs made it just three.
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Pujols and his damage at Wrigley Field
His career consists of 56 home runs and a .297/.399/.613 slash against the Cubs in total. He has only homered more against the Houston Astros (58). At Wrigley itself, he has hit 28 homers and slashed .296/.397/.607. That includes 73 runs driven in, 98 hits, 17 doubles and 64 runs scored.
Two times Pujols had three-homer games at Wrigley Field, once on July 20, 2004, and the other on May 30, 2010. That 2004 game saw him go 5-5 and his third homer was a game-winner in the top of the ninth.
He has four three-homer games in his career, and half of them came in Chicago. His final game at Wrigley as a Cardinal was on August 21, 2011. Go figure he went 4-4 with a home run. Since then he has played at against the Cubs at Wrigley twice as an Angel (2013, 2016) before this weekend.
It was frustrating as a fan at the time, having one guy kill you always at your own park. Not to mention so many of those Cubs teams were bad while Pujols and the Cardinals were in the postseason pretty much every year. It is like how us Chicago Bears fans have had to sit and watch two decades of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers play in Green Bay. In the end, we were witnessing greatness.
This particular visit to Wrigley Field
Pujols is 39 years old and is under contract with the Angels through 2021. It is honestly hard to see him playing after that. He will be over 40 and has been steadily declining since 2013. So this could very well be the last time he plays at Wrigley after 90+ games played there since 2001.
It may be hard to say “End of an era” when he has not been regularly playing the Cubs since 2011, but still knowing it could be the end brings in a mix of emotions. If you had told most Cubs fans last decade they would not see Pujols play their team anymore; then they would have thrown a parade. But as baseball fans, our thoughts and feelings evolve for great players who age and reach the twilight of their careers, even for the ones that did so much damage to our team. It is like a big chunk of our baseball memories are finally being put behind us for good.
To put in perspective how long Pujols has played, look at his first career game at Wrigley Field. It was on June 5, 2001. Pujols collected two hits in a 12-6 Cubs victory at an overcast and cool Friendly Confines. Matt Stairs and Ron Coomer were both playing in the Cubs lineup that day and Jon Lieber was the winning pitcher. Also worth noting that Pujols is the only player who participated in that game which is still an active MLB player.
If Pujols is playing or gets an at-bat in the series finale, Cubs fans should do the one thing they have not done for him, give him some cheers. It may not be 100% certain this will be his last time at Wrigley, but it seems more likely than not so it should be treated as such.