Watch the pursuit of Cardinals legend Alex Rodriguez, club exclusive

The 42-year-old excited for a home run in 2022 last led MLB in long balls — and last won MVP — in 2009, when the St. Louis Cardinals made him a hot deadline trade for Matt Holliday, whose son he was just the No. 1 pick in July’s draft.

When Albert Pujols returned to the Cardinals for a farewell tour in 2022, he was at 679 homers. He hasn’t been an above-average hitter in any season since 2016, he can’t play in the outfield and he doesn’t hit right-handers well enough to hit regularly for a team with playoff aspirations. But the very cute reunion with the Cardinals worked, because of course it did, and now it’s a spark plug for the team’s rise to the top of the NL Central.

After hitting two homers in a game against Arizona this weekend, he has 693 homers and is turning an unlikely run at 700 into a real possibility.

It seemed impossible because his trend line had long ago turned south.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 22: Albert Pujols #5 of the St.  Louis Cardinals celebrates his solo home run during Game 7 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 22, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 22: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates his solo home run during Game 7 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 22, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

We like to say who is on the pace of history, who has the trajectory of an all-time leader. But break down the all-time home run list by age group and you’ll see we’re kidding ourselves. The leaders through age 30 are Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Jimmie Foxx and Pujols, who had 408 by the end of 2010. The leaders through age 31 are Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth, the only members of the elusive 700-home club Pujols is trying to join. Everyone hit more after 31 than before.

Pujols never had that kind of pace in his 30s. After hitting 32 or more homers every year with the Cardinals, he’s only done it once with the Angels (40 in 2015). For the latter part of his stint with the Angels, the question of Homer’s history was secondary to the question of how much longer he could get out there. He struggled to run or play on the field due to recurring leg and foot problems. the team continued to disappoint. his line kept sinking. At one point his (less recognized) stature as a 100 WAR player slipped away because he was accumulating negative value.

But Pujols continued to play, seemingly finding a second wind with the Dodgers after parting ways with the Angels last year. He continued to step up to the bat and try to tap into some of the magic. And at least for now, he has found it. His seven homers in a hot August so far are the most he’s hit in any month since June 2015 (when he hit 13). He’s hitting over .400 since the All-Star break and is winning at bats against right-handers.

He needs three homers to tie and four to pass Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the all-time homer list. With seven more hostages, he would reach that star that seemed so out of reach. Already, however, it has regained our attention. A legend whose time had passed is once again the man of the hour.

Watching Albert Pujols chase 700 homers

Pujols is currently at 693. He hit the latest against the Cubs on Monday.

So far, 10 of his 14 homers in 2022 have come against lefties. While he could see at-bats against left-handed relievers — and righty starters since he’s on such a hot streak — his next chance to face a left-handed starter will likely come Tuesday against Mike Minor of the Cincinnati Reds. Pujols has faced him 23 times, but never pitched him.

He will have plenty of opportunities in front of the home fans in early September. The Cardinals play 14 games beginning Sept. 17 in St. Louis.

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