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Albert Pujols Seems Just Fine, Thanks

Up to his old tricks

Remember a time not too long ago when everyone was asking the same question in baseball: “What is wrong with Albert Pujols?”

Never mind that Hanley Ramirez, another elite player and among the very best offensive forces in this game over the past few years, is hitting more than 100 points below his carer batting average and about 240 points below his career OPS — he doesn’t have a possible $300 million coming his way this winter. He hasn’t carved out a career path that could end with him among the five best hitters in the history of baseball.

Is it an injury, his age of 31, a pressing desire to not flop before appearing on the open market as the most valued free agent since Alex Rodriguez in 200o? Could it be something else because, I mean, it has to be something, right?

On May 23, Pujols ended a streak of 120 plate appearances without a home run. But it was only his eighth of the season! He’s still not right!

He looks good now.

Since May 30, Pujols is 12-for-27 with two doubles, five home runs and nine RBIs in just six games. That’s way too many numbers for one sentence.

The emphasis for Pujols’ current little hot streak began Saturday.

And then continued today.

Pujols became just the third player in MLB history to hit walk-off shots on consecutive days in extra innings. Albert Belle and Ron Santo are the other two.

Yeah, Pujols is still far off his career averages of .329/.428/.618 — think for a second about just how insane that is. The point is he’s headed in the right direction once again. He has bumped his OPS up 81 points since June 1. His 13 home runs are tied for third-best in the National League. The panic needs to subside. All the wasted breath from the past few weeks could have been saved with just some common sense: It was a slump. It happens to every player. Pujols’ was extended a bit, but he’s making up for it now. And it’s amazing what can happen with 101 games left on the schedule.

The biggest question we should ask now regarding Pujols isn’t about him, but his opponent: Why would the Cubs (read: manager Mike Quade) choose to throw anything hittable toward Albert in extra innings with the score tied.

And nobody on base.

On back-to-back days.

Lastly, going down a slightly different route, the Cardinals are now 36-25, two games clear of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and 11 games ahead of the Chicago Cubs. Pujols now has 51 career homers against the Cubs, six more than against any other team. He has a career .301 batting average against them.

There has been a lot of speculation, 99 percent of it baseless and fan-generated, that he might join the Cubs next year. He will be vigorously courted by them  But unless the financial amount is something he can’t refuse, why would he leave a simply better team and end his chances to rack up numbers against a foe he loves to crush so often?

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