1,000 Homers Worth of Players Lost this Week

This week hasn’t been the best for two of the game’s best power hitters.

On Sunday, it was announced that Alex Rodriguez will be ending his playing days on Friday, as he will be FielderArodtaking part in his final game after being released by the Yankees. Following that, on Tuesday, it was revealed that Prince Fielder’s playing career has also come to a close, for a much different reason.

Rodriguez is set to serve as an advisor for the Yankees following Friday’s game, as the Yankees letting him go as a player has left Rodriguez out of a job. With his departure goes 696 career homers, and two decades worth of incredible stats, including three 50+ home run seasons.

But Rodriguez’s departure doesn’t come without controversy that has seemingly followed him throughout his career. Serving multiple suspensions over his career, Rodriguez isn’t liked by a good amount of people around baseball, but his loss is still somewhat sad on a baseball level.

Fielder, on the other hand, left virtually no one with a dry eye when conducting his tear-filled retirement announcement earlier this week. Having undergone a second neck surgery this season — a surgery that appeared to threaten merely this season — Fielder has been forced to give up baseball for good.

He takes with him 319 career bombs, and will undoubtedly be missed around the baseball world. Hitting a career high 50 homers back in 2007, Fielder hasn’t nearly been that type of power hitter in quite some time, fighting injury after injury over the past several years. But no one expected his retirement to come so quickly, or unexpectedly.

At the end of the day, whether or not you were a fan of Alex Rodriguez or Prince Fielder, or couldn’t care less to see them go, this is still one of those weeks around baseball that will change its face. Power hitters like these two don’t come around all that often, and it will be interesting to see the corresponding moves both teams make to recoup for their losses.

1,015 home runs is a lot to replace.

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Albert Pujols Unlocking Youthful Self

In game one of a doubleheader against the Red Sox on Monday afternoon, Albert Pujols blasted a homer to left for his 547th career home run. But as stunning as that is, it would turn out to be the second game on the day that would have people talking.Pujols

Facing Red Sox knuckleballer, Steven Wright, Pujols smacked a hanging knuckler into the left field seats in his first at-bat, tying him with Mike Schmidt on the all-time home run list. Later in the game, Pujols hit yet another dinger, giving him two for the game, three on the day, and moving him into 15th place on the all-time chart.

Pujols hasn’t been playing this way for quite some time. Since signing a 10-year, 240 million dollar contract with the Angels in 2012, the Angels have been expecting this kind of production from Pujols — the kind he recorded in his days in St. Louis. But Pujols has been just a shell of his former self; until recently, that is.

Since May 28th, Pujols has been on a tear, hitting 21 of his 29 homers on the season. Becoming the first Angels player since 1995 to homer in both games of a doubleheader, it would appear that Pujols is back in full force. But it’s not just Pujols who is putting on a show. Mike Trout also smacked a homer of his own on Monday, giving him 28 on the year in what has become a back and forth home run battle between him and Pujols.

Currently, Pujols is on pace to smack 51 home runs — that would be a career high — with Mike Trout on pace for 49. If that happens, they would become just the sixth pair of teammates to finish with 45+ home runs. If they can both reach 50, they would match a mark set by only one other pair of teammates in baseball history: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in 1961.

But while on pace numbers are never a number to be set in stone, Trout and Pujols are well on their way to becoming the first teammates to finish in the top two spots for home runs on the season since Manny Ramirez (43 homers) and David Ortiz (41) did so back in 2004. That would still be an amazing feat.

With the Angels playing great baseball, thanks in large part to the hot bat of Albert Pujols, many people are foreseeing them making an even deeper run into the playoffs than the one they were swept out of in 2014. However, with Pujols just seven homers away from passing Manny Ramirez on the home run list, and just 15 away from jumping over Reggie Jackson, a lot of eyes will also be focused solely on Pujols.

Having stated that he plans to fully play out his contract, which runs through 2021, Pujols has a chance at making things really interesting down the road. 600 home runs is a lock for sure, but 700 isn’t out of the question. Assuming Pujols is sitting around 565-570 homers at the end of the season, with six full seasons left to go on his contract, that comes out to right around 22 home runs per season. Very doable, if you ask me.

It all just depends on how long Albert Pujols can keep the fountain of youth flowing.

Bryce Harper Finally Breaking Out as a Superstar

Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Marlins, Bryce Harper was batting around .250 with just five home runs and 15 RBI’s on the season. Coming off a somewhat disappointing 2014 due to injuries, it wasn’t looking like Harper was going to do all that much to prove that 2015 was finally going to be the year he broke out as a full on superstar player.

But then Wednesday happened.Harper

In Harper’s first at-bat of the game, he took Tom Koehler deep for his sixth home run of the season. But Harper was far from done. In his very next set of swings, Harper again drove a ball in to the stands. Still, Harper had more to show off on the day. In his next plate appearance, Harper slugged yet another ball out of the ballpark, giving him three straight at-bats with a home run, on a day in which he collected five runs batted in. A truly spectacular game. But it was just one game. Nothing gave any indication that Harper would continue the power surge any further beyond that.

But then Friday happened.

This time against the Braves, Harper looked to continue on the three-home run, five RBI game he put together just 48 hours before, and he didn’t miss a beat. Going three for four on the game, Harper only managed two homers this time around, but still was able to rack up five RBI’s on the day. Combined with the previous game, that gave Harper five home runs with ten RBI’s over the course of two games, making him the youngest to ever hit five home runs combined between back-to-back games. If that doesn’t make a player a superstar, I don’t know what does.

Even after seemingly hitting a performance peak that would be impossible to top, baseball fans from all over likely found themselves looking at Harper to crank out multiple home runs again on Saturday. Admittedly being an unfair expectation, that’s simply what comes with the territory of being such a big name star at such a young age.

Nonetheless, Harper has always come off as the type to love the expectations and spotlight, and therefore was inevitably looking to show off again on Saturday. But Harper didn’t kick off the game with a homer, instead hitting a fly ball deep into center which was caught on the warning track. HarperTeam

His following at-bats resulted in a walk, a single and a strikeout. With the Nationals up 6-4 going into the eighth inning, it seemed that Harper wouldn’t be able to have a third straight game with a home run.

But a two-run double from Christian Bethancourt that tied up the game quickly got everyone thinking about Harper getting another shot to continue the streak, and subsequently be the hero.

It would come down to Harper in the bottom of the ninth with Jayson Werth on first and the game tied.

Amazingly, but not all that surprisingly, Bryce Harper came through, demolishing a decent pitch (down in the zone) from Braves’ reliever, Cody Martin, deep into the center field seats for a walk off home run.

Three games, six home runs, twelve RBI’s. Absolutely incredible.

Harper is now batting .292 for the season, with 11 home runs, 27 RBI’s and an on base percentage of over .400. Holding a season high home run total of 22 home runs from 2012, Harper already having half of that number just over a month into the season leads many to believe that he could be on a pace that everyone has been waiting for him to set.

The former Rookie of the Year has rubbed some people the wrong way in the past, but it’s hard not to root for such a talented young star in the making. Bryce Harper may not be the best player in baseball, but he is hands down the most exciting to watch.

Come July, Harper is likely looking at his third All-Star game of his short career; when October rolls around, he could be leading the Nationals deep into the playoffs; and once the calendar flips to November, Harper quite possibly could be receiving the award that takes every player from star to superstar: The Most Valuable Player award.