ST. LOUIS – Albert Pujols knows the grind of a Major League Baseball season just about as well as anyone. Well before his special sendoff season last year, he learned that things don’t always start as planned.
In 2011, a Pujols-backed St. Louis Cardinals team started 4-7 and only stood four games above .500 in mid-August before a miraculous run to the postseason. The Cardinals grinded through plenty of adversity and won the World Series in the final year of his first stint with St. Louis.
“At the end of the day, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” said Pujols in a Zoom call with St. Louis media members earlier this week.
It’s a sentiment he thinks will hold true for this year’s St. Louis Cardinals squad. The team begins a 10-game road trip Friday behind an 8-11 record, somewhat amending one of the team’s slowest starts in nearly a half-century.
The current Cardinals roster hasn’t changed all that much since Pujols retired at the end of last season, one which ended with 93 wins and a division crown. He says there’s plenty of potential to move past the slow start.
“They have too many great players, too many great leaders in this clubhouse to [not] figure it out,” said Pujols. “They still have five and a half months. I think they’re going to put it together.”
With Pujols in the fold, 2011 is arguably the best example of a Cardinals team rebounding from a slow start. The 2004 Cardinals, which nearly broke a franchise record with 105 wins, also built momentum to a World Series berth after falling below .500 in early May.
“Being on teams to start like they have to start , they’ll go deep into the playoffs,” said Pujols. He mentioned the opposite scenario can hold true as well. “I’ve been on those teams where you have a great start to the season, everyone says you can get to the World Series, and you don’t even make it to the playoffs.”
His ultimate advice: Don’t worry about the record and take the season one game at a time.
“I think if they make it to the playoffs this year, nobody is going to remember the month they had in April,” said Pujols.
Pujols, serving his first year as a special assistant for the Los Angeles Angels, hopes to visit the Cardinals next weekend when their current West Coast roadtrip leads them to Dodger Stadium.
“I’m going to try to attend one of the games, say hi to the guys, and watch the game,” said Pujols. “If the schedule allows, I’m going to come up and watch some games [in St. Louis].”
The three-time MVP has been following highlights throughout the season and says the Cardinals have a nice dynamic with rookie Jordan Walker.
“He ended up making the ball club, and I’m so excited,” said Pujols. “To see a young player like that develop and try to help a ball club win a championship is awesome.”
Pujols continues to work on his golf game in his post-retirement life. He discussed his hobby with FOX 2 during a spring training visit and really enjoys playing with his son A.J.
This weekend, Pujols will have the chance to enjoy a PGA Tour Champions’ Celebrity Classic event. While tuning up for it, he delivered a big swing alongside longtime PGA golfer Jerry Kelly.
“I love the game of golf and being back here to get invited to this tournament, I’m super pumped up, super excited,” said Pujols. “Definitely got some free time, and I don’t have to follow a schedule like I did for 23 years. It was great back then, a great career, but now it’s time to enjoy the great things the Lord has given me on this Earth.”