December 1, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Albert Pujols hasn’t decided if he’ll retire at end of 2021

When will Albert Pujols retire?

It’s a question the 41-year-old Angels first baseman didn’t have an answer to on Saturday, saying in his first media availability of the spring that his “mind is not even there” entering his 21st MLB season.

“I think that decision will come at the end of the year,” he said, adding, “My mind is staying focused [on staying] healthy and help this ball club try to win this year.”

Pujols’ wife, Deidre, initially appeared to indicate in an Instagram post on Monday that this would be the last season for Pujols, a three-time MVP and 10-time All-Star. After the post set off a wave of speculation on the internet, she edited the wording to reflect that 2021 is the last season of Pujols’ contract with the Angels and that she was simply trying to send her husband “blessings” going into this season. She clarified that it was not an official retirement announcement.

Pujols said the original post was simply misinterpreted and blown out of proportion.

“It’s the same thing that she’s always done, sending me every year with a blessing,” Pujols said. “If she had just [originally] said, ‘the last year on my contract with the Angels,’ it would have been different. But I told her, ‘You don’t need to apologize. I know what you mean.’”

Earlier this week, Angels manager Joe Maddon said the situation was “no big deal.”

“He’s fine,” Maddon added. “He made that very clear. So we just get back to normal patterns.”

On the field, Pujols is hoping he can reverse the declining production that has become his new norm in recent seasons. After three consecutive campaigns with a batting average in the .240s and on-base-plus-slugging percentage below .750 from 2017-19, Pujols’ numbers reached new lows in last season’s pandemic-shortened campaign, when he hit a career-worst .224 with a .665 OPS and 25 strikeouts to only nine walks in 39 games.

Pujols, who is fifth on MLB’s all-time home run list with 662, hasn’t recorded an above-average OPS+ (an advanced metric in which 100 is considered league average) since 2016. According to Fangraphs, his wins above replacement statistic has been in the negatives for four straight seasons as well.

Pujols, however, believes he can contribute. He entered this year’s camp feeling “fresh” physically after deciding to start hitting later in the winter than usual, giving himself more time for gym work this offseason. He isn’t worried about playing time at first base after the emergence of Jared Walsh last season.

“He understands what’s going on, he accepts it well,” Maddon said. “We’ll just continue to try to on a nightly basis [to] figure out the best route. But regardless of the role we put him in, I know he’s gonna react to it well.”

As far as his potential retirement, Pujols said any official announcement will come in a more formal manner than an Instagram post.

“When I feel like it’s time to go,” Pujols said, “everybody’s gonna find out at the same time.”