Cardinals exec: Albert Pujols nearly retired midseason

St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols came on strong at the end of the season, hitting 17 homers in his last 47 games and reaching the 700 milestone for his career ahead of his planned retirement.

However, the renaissance nearly didn’t happen.

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Thursday, according to MLB.com, that Pujols nearly retired in June.

“We were aware that there were some difficult times, but we are so glad that he was able to marshal through it,” Mozeliak said.

Pujols was asked earlier this week if he ever had times when he regretted coming back to play this year after putting up mediocre numbers last season for the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I did, I swear I did,” he said. “There were some times when I (asked) myself that, many times.”

Pujols, 42, signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with St. Louis in March, allowing him to finish his career where he began. He was an All-Star for the Cardinals nine times in his first 11 major league seasons (2001-11) before signing a 10-year, $240 million free agent deal with the Angels.

A three-time National League Most Valuable Player during his time with the Cardinals, Pujols made just one All-Star team during his decade with the Angels, which ended when he was released last year and signed with the Dodgers.

Pujols did little in the first half of the 2022 season to signal that he was about to regain his form. In 62 games through Aug. 6, he was batting .228 with seven homers and 24 RBIs.

The rest of the season, he hit .324 and drove in nearly a run per game (44 RBIs in 47 games).

On Sept. 23 at Dodger Stadium, Pujols homered twice to record 700 for his career. He joined Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) as the only players to reach that mark, and he finished the regular season with 703 homers.

“When you have good people around you and they are encouraging you and you realize that God has opened so many doors for you, man, it puts things back into perspective,” Pujols said, according to MLB.com. “I decided, ‘I’m going to stick with it!’ I knew sooner or later it was going to come and turn around for me, because it can’t be like it was all year long.”

Pujols isn’t quite retired yet. He and the Cardinals will open a best-of-three National League wild-card series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday. All three games will be played in St. Louis.

Pujols joins fellow veterans Adam Wainwright, 41, and Yadier Molina, 40, in attempting to lead the Cardinals to a third World Series championship within the past 20 years. St. Louis won the title in 2006 and 2011.