Cubs fans had that feeling deep in their guts when Albert Pujols stepped in as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning on Sunday afternoon. It was a 0-0 game with the go-ahead run at second and young Brandon Hughes on the mound. It all seemed too perfect that Pujols, a man who had tortured the Cubs for years, would have one last triumphant jog around the bases as he faced the North Siders for the final time.
Sure enough, bang. The crowd in St. Louis went berzerk and the Cardinals dugout all came forward to greet him. It was home run #695 for the future Hall of Famer. Meanwhile, all the then-21 games below .500 Cubs could do was stand idly by and watch in stunned silence. Pujols got one last gut-punch opportunity at the Cubs and he did not miss.
For the Cubs, it’s all over – and no one will miss Albert Pujols
With the book closed on Pujols’ body of work against Chicago, he carried 59 home runs, a slash of .292/.395/.605 and a .999 OPS in 199 games against the Cubs. He’s only hit more home runs against the Houston Astros (62) but that is over 101 more games.
The North Siders were spared from regularly facing the legendary slugger for a decade, only a very few times in interleague play against the Angels. In his final season back with the Cardinals, he humbly reminded Cubs fans of what he used to do against their team from 2001-2011. Not once but twice over the past few weeks, he hit a game-winning homer against the Boys in Blue. Just like old times.
Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, many fans were just glad that was it. This is by no means disrespect to Pujols as a player or person. He is one of the greatest hitters of all-time and seems like a really good guy, but constantly being burned by him is something that will not be missed by the North Side faithful. Getting to 700 home runs would be an incredible feat and something many baseball fans would like to see (myself included), but being “part of” that journey was not exactly fun.
Last weekend gave Cubs fans another humble reminder that the Cardinals organization continues to be top-tier. They are going to have another shot at a World Series with Pujols, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina as part of the team. They had won in 2006 and 2011, before the agonizing rebuild that finally put the Cubs at the top. Now they have another shot at glory while the Cubs are back to the bottom and in another rebuild. The “down years” for the Cardinals from 2016-2018 were still winning seasons for them, as the Cubs are facing back-to-back losing seasons and no postseason wins since 2017.
This is the kind of success Cubs fans desire on the North Side. Admitting they want to be like their biggest rival is hard, but it’s the truth. Hopefully, Jed Hoyer will help make that happen after the Theo Epstein era fell apart quicker than anticipated.