A decade ago, Albert Pujols won his second World Series title with the St. Louis Cardinals. That same year, Justin Verlander was the American League MVP, and Miguel Cabrera won his first of three straight batting titles — the latter two would be accompanied by MVP honors of his own.
Time can catch up with any player, of course, and in 2021, that proud trio is in a much different spot. Pujols was designated for assignment Thursday by the Los Angeles Angels, Cabrera is hitting well under .200 for Detroit, and Verlander hasn’t pitched at all this year following Tommy John surgery.
Pujols, a three-time MVP with the Cardinals, is the oldest of that bunch at age 41. He hasn’t been an All-Star since 2015, and now the big question is whether he can find a team willing to give him regular playing time. He’s hitting .198 on the season, although five of his 17 hits have been home runs, pushing his career total to 667.
Cabrera began the season with a classic opening day highlight, homering in the snow at Comerica Park. He’s struggled mightily since then. Even after a couple of two-hit games Friday and Saturday, he’s batting .149 and has only two home runs.
Cabrera needs 124 hits to reach 3,000 and 11 homers to reach 500. He contract runs through at least 2023.
Verlander, Cabrera’s former teammate from their Detroit days, enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, winning his second Cy Young Award in 2019 with Houston. Then he made only one appearance last year and had Tommy John surgery Oct. 1.
He’s been throwing from 90 feet, but there’s no clear timetable for his return. The 38-year-old right-hander is eligible for free agency after this season.
AT THE TOP
The Chicago White Sox have now lost two of their most exciting players to major injuries. Luis Robert could miss the rest of the season because of a torn right hip flexor. Fellow outfielder Eloy Jiménez was already expected to miss most of the season because of a ruptured left pectoral tendon.
Still, the White Sox lead the AL Central, and at plus-53, they easily have the best run differential in all of baseball.
Pujols was the National League MVP in 2005, 2008 and 2009. Which players finished second in those seasons?
LINE OF THE WEEK
Perhaps this should be renamed “no-hitter of the week” until further notice. John Means and Wade Miley each threw one. The slight edge goes to Means, who struck out 12 with no walks in his gem Wednesday. The Baltimore left-hander allowed only one baserunner — when a Seattle hitter reached on a strikeout.
Miley’s no-hitter for Cincinnati on Friday was the fourth in the majors this season — and the second time Cleveland had been no-hit.
“There should be one every week, right?” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve built teams on the three-run homer or strikeout or walk, with not a lot of hits in between.”
COMEBACK OF THE WEEK
The Philadelphia Phillies had a 98.6% chance to beat Atlanta in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday, according to Baseball Savant. That was when the Braves had two outs and nobody on, trailing 3-1. Then Ehire Adrianza walked and Pablo Sandoval homered to tie it.
Philadelphia’s win probability was back up to 98% in the top of the 12th after the Phillies went ahead 7-4, but they didn’t score again in that frame, and Adrianza capped a four-run inning for the Braves with an RBI single to win it.
Atlanta lefty Tyler Matzek started a 1-6-3 double play in unorthodox fashion Sunday night against Philadelphia. On a comebacker up the middle, he reached his glove hand back behind his head to snag the ball without looking. The rest of the play was routine by comparison.
Andruw Jones in 2005, Ryan Howard in 2008 and Hanley Ramirez in 2009.
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