Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols is in the final year of his 10-year contract, and at age 41, could very easily be retiring at the end of the 2021 season. Over the past few years, there has been a clear decline in Pujols’ athleticism, something that’s expected when a professional athlete nears 40.
However, 2021 has looked and felt different for the Hall of Fame slugger. He has played in 19 of the Angels 23 games — 15 of them at first base — and is slashing .224/.278/.448 with five home runs and 12 RBI’s. These are by no means the numbers he used to put up, but Angels fans can and should be happy with that level of production through the first month.
Physically, Pujols said he feels great, and is in his best shape in a long time because of an offseason in which he was fully healthy, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“I feel great,” Pujols said. “This is probably the best I’ve felt in a while. I think part of that is the training I put in this offseason. When you’re breaking down or feeling injuries, you can be doing nothing at home and feel sore. But you know you’re healthy when you’re able to train in the gym and move weights. It’s something that I continue to do.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon also noticed his first baseman’s flexibility and athleticism this season.
“He’s very limber,” Maddon said. “When he stretches, he’s very flexible. With his body size, it belies that. You wouldn’t think that. But I’ve seen him put his leg over the rail during batting practice and it’s like, ‘Oh my God.’ I think his longevity is due to that flexibility and pure will. You have to be strong-willed to do what he does and do it for that long.”
Pujols has given absolutely no indication what he’ll do this offseason. However, it’s increasingly probable that this is his last season in an Angels uniform. If it is, it’s great to see him still capable of giving premier effort and production with his bat.
At the end of the season, he’ll make whatever decision is best for him and his family, but for now, his goal is to help the Angels reach the playoffs for just the second time in his tenure in Anaheim.
Pujols praises Mike Trout for continued excellence
At age 41, Pujols has already learned that players cannot sustain dominance forever. However, he is not surprised seeing the blazing start that Mike Trout is off to in 2021. He called Trout’s ability to maintain his performance “scary,” and thinks he can continue it for many years to come.