Now that Mariano Rivera has paved the path to unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame, others are certain to follow, beginning with Derek Jeter in the Class of 2020.
And when it comes his time, Albert Pujols almost certainly will be afforded the same courtesy. He is one of the great hitters of his generation. And even more importantly, he has done what he has done without any suggestion he cut corners by using performance enhancing drugs.
Pujols reached a very rare milestone on Thursday when he collected his 2,000th RBI with a solo home run in the third inning of the Los Angeles Angels 13-0 win at Detroit. He smacked a fastball off of lefty Ryan Carpenter to the opposite field and then basked in light applause from the smallish crowd gathered at Comerica Park.
“I knew as soon as I hit it, I knew it was gonna go out of the ballpark,” Pujols said.
Now in situations like this, when a player hits a milestone homer, representatives of the home team are dispatched to the stands to find the person who caught it and try to convince them to give it back to the player.
In this case, the fan, Ely Hydes, 33, a law student living in Detroit, was not willing to comply. He wanted the ball for himself. He picked it up as it was rolling and bouncing around.
“When I sat down, eight seconds later, a guy walks by with a baseball glove, and I go, ‘Yeah, baseball glove buddy!’ I almost brought mine, but there’s no way in hell we get a flyball out there,” Hydes told the Detroit News “Then, just like that, the crack of the bat, I ran after the ball, and it hopped right to me. I didn’t even see who hit it.
“I’m not in it for the money, I just came here for the beer and a game,” Hydes said.
The Detroit News said Tigers officials did all they could do to convince Hyde to turn over the ball. They made offers and counter-offers; a Pujols autographed baseball, an autographed ball and a meet-and-greet with Pujols, a Pujols autographed ball, a meet-and-greet and a Pujols jersey plus some Miguel Cabrera memorabilia.
In trying to estimate what the ball might be worth, the News pointed to ARod’s 3,000th hit, also a home run. The Yankees donated $150,000 in exchange for the baseball.
Pujols did not seem upset.
“He can keep it,” Pujols said. “It’s a great memory for him. I mean we play this game for the fans, and it’s a piece of history that he’s going to have for the rest of his life.”
What’s interesting is trying to determine where Pujols sits among the all-time RBI leaders. The stat did not become official until 1920, which means whatever figures have been culled for greats of that era, like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Cap Anson, have been assembled through unofficial research and game reports.
If you believe those numbers, Pujols, 39, is fifth behind Hank Aaron (2,297), Ruth (2,214), Alex Rodriguez (2,086) and Anson (2,075). If you doubt the veracity of those numbers, Pujols is third behind Aaron and ARod.
One thing can not be disputed. If he is blessed with health, he should at least be able to pass Rodriguez and Anson before his career is over.
“He’s one of the greatest hitters ever to walk the planet, without question,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “For about 10 years, he was the best. He was the Mike Trout of his time. Really, it went from Pujols to Miquel Cabrera to Trout. But Albert’s body of work is clearly the best.
“To me, it’s unbelievable. I know in this day and age people say RBIs are a product of opportunity. But guys like Albert drive people in from first, he’s driven himself in over 600 times, so it’s extremely special.”
“It’s obviously a huge accomplishment for him,” said Trout. “I’m very fortunate to be a part of it. I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever see it again in my lifetime. He’s been close the last few days to getting it, and that home run today was a no-doubter.”
The homer ended an 0-for-15 slump and traveled 415 feet. It was his 639th homer of his career, leaving him 21 shy of Willie Mays for fifth all time.
“Everything that I have accomplished is very special to me,” Pujols said. “I don’t think there’s one that counts better than others. I think they’re all great. I think the best thing is you do it and you help your team win, and we end up winning the series today, and that’s more special.”