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These days I’m usually busy on this site with my Artful Dodgers column, and rest assured I’ll have another coming soon. But before I continue my routine of overreacting to every game and debating who I’d want to play Don Mattingly in “2014 Dodgers: The Movie” (I’m leaning toward Bill Murray at the moment), I want to get back to general commentary for this piece. More specifically, I want to take this space to congratulate Albert Pujols on his 500th career home run and the prestige it adds to perhaps the finest career I’ve been able to witness in my time as a baseball fan (from the 2001 season to present, which fittingly marks his exact career span).

In a series that was hyped as the first meeting between the brash young superstars Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, it made for an even more fitting occasion for Pujols to join the 500 club (granted, of the 26 members, he’s now the third-youngest). And he became the first player in history to notch both 499 and 500 on the same day, with the big one being one of his trademark mammoth blasts to left center.

Photo credit: Agne27 via Wikipedia

Photo credit: Agne27 via Wikipedia

Given the Angels’ struggles this season (compounded by a spike in ticket prices that drove even diehard fans like my grandparents away), I would have preferred to see his no-doubter off Taylor Jordan sail for the rock fountains of Angel Stadium for all suffering hometown fans to enjoy.

Even though he’s relatively young for a member of the 500 club, given his struggles last year, some malcontents may still want to view Albert as an aging player in decline with a bloated contract. But in all honesty, that 2013 slump can be attributed to a painful onset of plantar fasciitis. Thus far Pujols looks like he’s back to his old self. Hell, the only downside with regard to him while writing this piece is the overwhelming task of wrapping my mind around the seemingly endless array of accomplishments he’s racked up in 13 years.

But at least some of them are worth repeating for this occasion: Three NL MVP’s, a lifetime average currently locked well above .300, 30+ homers every season until 2013, and that home run off Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS that made Thom Brennaman lose his mind. And of course, he anchored the Cardinals’ 2006 and 2011 World Series championships, cranking three home runs in game three of the latter. Even with the emergence of incredible five-toolers like Trout and Harper, I sometimes can’t help but feel I may never get to see a baseball career of this magnitude again in my lifetime.

Before we’re entirely swept away in celebration (which should honestly last longer for milestones like these), some may want to stunt the festivities altogether out of skepticism that Albert reached this point thanks to ‘roids. Obviously, one could hardly be blamed for harboring even just a tiny suspicion in the back of their mind. At this juncture, however, I feel a pretty comfortable assurance that Pujols is clean. He may not be as aggressive in proving his innocence as Frank Thomas, but at worst he’s simply innocent until proven guilty. And hey, at least Jack Clark took back those dumb comments he made on the possibility.

Sadly, it seems the Angels altogether (Trout very much excepted) have been unable to mirror Albert’s early resurgence, and thus far have only validated my prediction here that without improving the bullpen, they’d flounder behind Texas and Oakland once again. But should 2014 prove to be yet another grueling slog of a season in Orange County, the sight of Pujols’ no-doubter to left center in D.C. will easily outweigh all disappointments. Congratulations, Prince Albert, and here’s hoping you’ve got enough in the tank to reach 600 before you hang the cleats for good!

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