Albert Pujols Ties Eddie Murray on the All-Time Home Run List
May 19, 2014
Albert Pujols homered twice off David Price Sunday to tie Eddie Murray on the all-time home run list. Ed-die is about to move out of the top 25. Instinctually, this is disappointing for me. However, it does provide an opportunity to revisit Eddie's greatness, which cannot be defined by one moment, one season, nor especially one statistical category.
There are obvious shots to be taken at the home run list given the presence of known or suspected steroid users; six such cases appear in the top 20 ahead of Eddie Murray. The list elicits angry opinions starting at the top with Barry Bonds. Baseball fans can't even agree who is the "true" home run king, which, frankly, makes a moment like Pujols passing Murray further down the list that much more intriguing.
With the strongest emotions removed from play, it's easier to appreciate the performance that is and was on display. It allows us to stop thinking about greatest and simply appreciate greatness. And Eddie Murray was great.
Ask me about Eddie and I'll immediately start talking 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Only three other guys have done that so far: Hank Aaron, Eddie Murray, and Rafael Palmeiro. It's through that lens that I look at the top 25 and see what made Eddie different than say No. 24 Gary Sheffield (2,689 hits, 509 home runs) or No. 18 Frank Thomas (2,468 hits, 521 home runs).
Sheffield (.292/.393/.514) and Thomas (.301/.419/.555) both have better slash lines than Murray (.287/.359/.476). Jim Thome sits at No. 6 for home runs with 612 and stacks up favorably in all but average (.276/.402/.554). The reason Murray accomplished what none of those guys were able to with his 3,000 hit is that he stayed healthy and continued producing. There's a reason they called him Steady Eddie.
That brings us back to Pujols, who currently sits at 2,394 hits in his 14 seasons. That's more than the 2,352 hits Murray had at the conclusion of his 14th season. (Yes, there was a strike during the 1981 season, but Murray had played in more games by the end of that season than Pujols has thus far in his career.) However, last season served as a reminder that no player's health, especially Pujols', is guaranteed.
Cal Ripken Jr. thanked four people in his 2,131 speech: his mom, his dad, his wife, and Eddie Murray. He said Murray "showed me how to play this game, day in and day out." Perhaps those last four words sum it up the best: "day in and day out."
The beauty of all-time lists, even ones that are flawed by circumstance, are that they provide more than argument fodder. If we remember the guys at the top of the lists, particularly the moments when they reached the peak, we can be reminded of the guys behind them and the many days they spent climbing.