Albert Pujols was an inevitable new member of the 500 home run club. Nevertheless, Pujols hit a few speed bumps before joining the club, as his home run pace slowed in his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. However, the Pujols of old is starting to reemerge -- enough to get his 499'th and 500'th in one night at Washington on April 22.
Pujols kicked off the night with a three-run homer in the first, then hit No. 500 just two at-bats later. The Angels cruised to a 7-2 win over the Nationals, with Pujols outscoring Washington on his own by 5-2. His two homers brought him to eight for the season, which leads all of baseball early on.
It used to be commonplace that Pujols would lead the league in home runs, at least while he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. Since joining the Angels in 2012, however, he has had more fits and starts than he's been used to. After hitting only 30 blasts in 2012 and 17 in an injury-interrupted 2013, Pujols is getting back to his old ways just in time.
Even with recent delays, Pujols still became the third youngest player to reach the milestone, behind Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx. He also became the 26'th man in baseball history to get there, as well as the first in five years.
There was a time where the 500 home run club entrance was a revolving door, as 10 players reached the mark between 1999 and 2009 alone. Of course, most of those players were later tainted by the steroid era. Like Rodriguez once was years ago, Pujols is now baseball's great hope to break home run records in a clean fashion.
Age could be more of an obstacle than anything else, at least by the time his deal with the Angels ends. Los Angeles will pay him $30 million dollars in 2021, when he is over 40. But if the Pujols that hit most of his 500 homers in St. Louis comes back for good -- at least long enough to near the 700 homer milestone by 2020 -- it may be worth it for the Angels after all.
The accompanying list details the players who entered the 500 home run club since 1999, and what they did afterwards. Will Pujols eclipse them and everyone else in the group?
McGwire wasn't the youngest player to reach 500 home runs, but he did it with the least amount of at-bats in just 5,487 of them. However, nearly every one of those homers would come under greater scrutiny later.
Bonds reached the No. 500 mark early in his 73 home run season, which put him on the brink of the 600 mark in almost no time. But like McGwire, Bonds' various milestones would be tainted under the shadow of steroids later on.
Griffey is one of the few recent 500 home run members not to fall under the steroid era umbrella. But like Pujols, Griffey's home run record pace slowed down after he left his first team, although Griffey did hang around long enough to get over the 600 homer mark.
It took three more years for the next member of the 500 homer club to break in, as Thomas hit the mark right near the tail end of his career -- a career that will put him in the Hall of Fame this year.
Thome became the third player in 2007 alone to hit his 500'th homer, although he got lost in the shuffle. Nevertheless, he bounced around for five more years and hit over 100 more dingers in the process.
Sheffield became the last man of the 2000s to reach 500 homers at the start of his last season.
Hit 500'th home run on: April 22, 2014
No. of homers after 500'th: ???
Remained in baseball for: ???
A slow start to his tenure with the Angels made Pujols get to 500 later than he should have. But with seven years left in L.A. and with a hot start to 2014, will he get back on track towards even greater records?