It’s the 11th day of August, and the Cardinals have only 52 games to go in their schedule. Then, maybe, they’ll compete in the postseason. This season is rushing by, moving as fast as the baseball travels when struck by Aaron Judge.

On Wednesday night, as I watched Albert Pujols engrave a 9-5 win at Colorado – with four hits, a double, his ninth homer, two RBI and two runs – I enjoyed every moment but couldn’t stop thinking about something.

This will be over soon.

Pujols’ final season seems to be whirring at a fast-forward pace, and I wish we could slow it down.

Here I am, in my early 60s, and I’m getting sad because I keep marking the dwindling weeks and days and the times we’ve treasured in 2022 while watching Pujols play … and knowing that we are approaching the final month, the final game, the last at-bat.

The Great Pujols will be moving into retirement, completing one of the most prolific and prestigious careers in major-league history. And though we’ll always have the multitudinous amount of memories that he created for us in his dozen years as a winner and a Cardinal, please pardon us for being greedy.

We want more.

At age 42, this classical Cardinal is putting on a show. This icon is much more than a statue in 2022. He’s energized and animated and playing with full passion. He smiles more than he ever has before, and he seems to be leading MLB in hugs for teammates and players on other teams. He removes his cap and waves it at fans in every ballpark he appears in. Albert Pujols is doing all that he can to make every day – every game, every moment – matter.

To see Pujols perform at such a high level in his 22nd big-league season … to see him so happy … to see him make so many others happy … to see his human touch … well, this is just the way it should be and I’m dreading the passage of time, when we won’t see this again in a big-league ballpark.

This is our Field of Dreams, with Pujols standing under the sun, basking in his love of the game, warmed by the unconditional affection of fans that bid him a sincere farewell.

This is so beautiful. It is a break from the madness in this nation, and in this world. This experience soothes the soul, and I can’t get enough of it.

As Padres third baseman Manny Machado said earlier this season: “Albert has been the best player in our generation to ever play this game, and to see him doing the things he’s doing – I mean, it’s just unbelievable. It’s freaking special that St. Louis gave him the opportunity to come back here and finish off his career as a Cardinal.”

The only thing I don’t like about it? The calendar is showing me that it’s Aug. 11. Already. The final regular-season game is 55 days from now.

We can’t make time stop.

But these days pitchers can’t make Pujols stop, either.

his final season, I don’t think many people would be upset by Pujols hitting .170 with little power. Just having him here is special, and his dedicated mentoring of young Cardinals is a rewarding and endearing aspect of his final year. His teammates are in awe of him, and that includes the veteran All-Stars like Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Pujols is the coolest uncle they’ve ever had, and he happens to be one of the most accomplished and heralded players to play the game since baseball came into being.

This is all very good, but Pujols made it significantly better by exceeding expectations with his play. He’s produced stretches of offense that have taken him – and us – back in time.

Since July 1, and through Aug. 10, Pujols has a .333 average, .388 onbase percentage and .617 slug.

That’s a 1.005 OPS.

I looked at past seasons of note to measure the older Pujols against the younger Pujols.

And again, keeping in mind that he’s had a 1.005 OPS since July 1 this season. OK, so what kind of OPS did Pujols post over the same stretch of days in earlier seasons of his career?

As a rookie in 2001, Pujols had a .917 OPS from July 1 through Aug. 10.

In 2008, when Pujols had his best major-league season statistically, his OPS was 1.012 over the same period of time.

In 2009, when he won his third and final MVP Award, Pujols had a .986 OPS over during the same days that match the schedule in 2022.

In 2011, his final season with St. Louis before departing as a free agent, Pujols had a .898 OPS from July 1 through Aug. 10. That’s 107 points less than his OPS over the same dates in 2022.

My goodness. How does a 42-year-old hitter perform just as well as he did – if not better – than a young Pujols did over a stretch of his glory-years summers?

Probably because he’s Albert Pujols.

He’s always had an impeccable sense of timing, you know.

Here’s a guided tour of his numbers:

For the season, among Cardinals that have at least 150 plate appearances, Pujols ranks 5th in onbase percentage (.325), 5th in slugging (.432) and 6th in OPS (.757).

In park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) this season, Pujols is 15 percent above league average offensively – higher than teammates Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill, Tommy Edman, Lars Nootbaar, Juan Yepez and the departed Harrison Bader.

Since July 1, the ageless Pujols is 2nd among St. Louis hitters in batting average and slugging and 3rd in onbase percentage and OPS.

And what about his almighty numbers against left-handed pitchers this season? In 81 plate appearances, Pujols has whupped them for a .357 average, .395 OBP, .614 slug and 1.009 OPS. This season he’s 73 percent above league average offensively (wRC+) vs. lefties.

Against LHP he’s averaged an RBI every 5.38 at-bats. In short, Pujols rates high on the list of the most dangerous hitters in the majors this season when a left-hander is on the mound. And he’s been a terrifying presence against lefties since the beginning of July, batting .444 with a 1.278 OPS in 32 plate appearances.

Pujols has had only one bad month (June) at the plate in 2022. If we combine his performances against all pitching in April, May, July and August, Pujols has a .268 average, .354 OBP, .493 slug and a .847 OPS.

For the season Pujols has a 116 OPS+, which means he’s 16 percent above league average offensively. If that holds up, it would be Albert’s highest OPS+ in a season since 2015, when he came in at 18% above league average. At age 35. He had a 116 OPS+ at age 33 in 2013, his second season with the Angels. And he stands with a 116 OPS+ again now. Preposterous.

Teammates continue to emphasize Pujols’ impact. After Wednesday’s win at Coors Field, an impassioned Nolan Arenado told Derrick Goold and other reporters that he’s always looked up to Pujols. As a younger player, Arenas set Pujols as his standard and was inspired to hit as well as the future Hall of Famer.

“I always thought about that,” Arenado said late Wednesday, as quoted by Goold. “I’ve been thinking about that for years. How great would it be to play with Albert? As good as he was it would be amazing to learn from a guy like that or watch him (do) all those little things. It would be pretty cool to play with a guy like that. To see, to learn from him.”

Arenado’s hopes materialized in 2022. They’re teammates. And in the 9-5 victory over the Rockies, Arenado and Pujols hit back-to-back homers in the sixth inning to expand their team’s lead to 8-2.

“I think it’s a lift in everybody’s game,” Arenado said of Pujols’ presence in the lineup. “I think everyone knows what’s at stake and everyone is so focused on helping the team win and trying to have quality at-bats. Albert has had millions of quality at-bats.”

The Summer of Pujols isn’t fading away. Not yet. If anything, it has turned stronger. The front office added pitching, the Cards have won 10 of the last 12 games. Bigger games are imminent, and Pujols is shining. It all seems fresher now. But in the back of our minds we know what’s coming. One of the all-time hallowed Cardinals will walk off the field for a final time, and proudly enter history.

That makes the Summer of Pujols more meaningful.

Powerfully so.

Emotionally so.

I interviewed Pujols for the first time during spring training of 2001, soon after his 21st birthday. He was packing an equipment bag just outside the door of the clubhouse at Roger Dean Stadium. He wasn’t in a casual-conversation mood. Even at 21, Pujols was polite — but all business. He had work to do.  “We think he has a chance to be very special,” then-GM Walt Jocketty said at the time. Good call, Walter.

And he’s still special.

I watched the kid Pujols blast batting-practice rockets at buildings beyond the left-field wall, with manager Tony La Russa whistling at each one. I was there in Denver for Pujols’ first game in the majors. And there for his first hit in the majors, a seventh-inning single off Rockies starter Mike Hampton.

I was there in Phoenix when Pujols hit the first home run of his career: April 6, fourth inning, with pitcher Armando Reynoso having the honor. I was there in Houston for his stunning home run off Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS. I was there in Arlington, Tex. in 2011 for his three-homer devastation in World Series Game 5.

I covered his first 11 seasons in St. Louis, a bountiful era of individual awards, seven postseason appearances, three NL pennants, and two World Series titles. Pujols competed in 74 postseason games in his first tour with the Cardinals, and came to the plate 324 times in those 74 contests — and I was there for every at-bat.

I wrote about him frequently. I upset him at times, but if Pujols got mad, the next day he might call me Papi or big guy or something similar — his way of letting me know that we were good. I admired and respected Pujols and understood that his burning pride and passion were huge elements in his greatness.

I think I appreciate Pujols more than ever in this, his last summer. I will always think of this time, this summer, and remember it dearly. Albert’s massive game at Coors Field just brought the wave of feelings pouring back over me again.

As a long-ago writer and poet (Celia Thaxter) once wrote, “There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.”

As I watch Albert Pujols in the remainder of his final summer, those words will resonate.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.

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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.

Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.