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Rounding Third: Quiet accomplishment for Pujols

<p>Have performance-enhancing drugs made us that jaded with regards to baseball milestones that hitting 500 home runs isn't a big deal anymore?</p>

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Have performance-enhancing drugs made us that jaded with regards to baseball milestones that hitting 500 home runs isn't a big deal anymore?

I mean, where was the buildup to Albert Pujols becoming the 26th player to join what was once a pretty exclusive fraternity? Now granted, he hit two on Tuesday to reach the magic number, but how many casual baseball fans even knew he was approaching 500?

But still, this wasn't some run-of-the mill player. This was a three-time National League MVP, who at one time was the face of baseball.

Pujols is a player who started his career with 10 straight seasons of at least a .300 batting average, 30 homers and 100 RBI, and he fell one batting-average point and one RBI short of doing it in an 11th straight season in 2011.

Quite simply, he was what his nickname was: he was a machine.

Derek Jeter got his own hour-long special on HBO when he was approaching 3,000 hits, a group by the way that has more members in it than the one Pujols joined on Tuesday.

Shouldn't we have focused a little more on Pujols?

Perhaps my memory is off, but didn't it seem like such a bigger deal when someone like Mike Schmidt reached the milestone. Heck, it even seemed like a bigger deal when Gary Sheffield did it back in 2009.

Yes, Gary Sheffield hit 500 home runs. In fact, he hit 509.

Think about this, when Schmidt hit No. 500 back in 1987, he was only the 14th player to reach that milestone. With Pujols' second blast on Tuesday, that number has almost doubled.

So, of course, the steroid era has kind of taken these numbers into another stratosphere. But, now that Bud Selig has cleaned up the game, just maybe these numbers will start to fall back in line and make this accomplishment the kind of big deal it was when someone like Schmidt or Reggie Jackson did it.

Think about it. Pujols, provided he stays healthy, may be the last 600-home run hitter we see for some time.

I started to see the graphics Tuesday night how Pujols is now the third- youngest player to ever reach 500 home runs. He's only 34 and still has seven years left after this one on that enormous $240 million contract he signed with the Los Angeles Angels prior to the 2012 season.

Talk is going to eventually shift to whether he can catch Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron or even Barry Bonds.

Let's say for argument's sake he hits another 25 home runs this season, which would give 525. He would then have to average 27 home runs a year over his next seven seasons to catch Ruth. If he wants to catch Aaron, he will have to average 32, and for Bonds, well, he'd have to hit 33 a season.

Given his injury problems the last two years, it's hard to even see Pujols playing another seven years.

Major League Baseball better be real careful here. How many times has it tried to make this number credible again only to have egg left on its face. Remember when Alex Rodriguez was going to be the "clean one" to break Bonds' record. How'd that turn out?

Now there is no hard evidence that Pujols did anything. Other than a few rumors and a direct tie to someone involved with PEDs, Pujols has been clean as a whistle. He actually followed through on a defamation suit toward former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark, who on the radio accused him of using banned substances.

Pujols' people may not like the fact this is even a discussion, but these are the times we live in.

The bigger story, though, is just how good Pujols has been playing. After last season's injury-plagued campaign that saw him hit a career-low .258, I would have bet the farm that he was done.

Especially at the age of 34.

But here he is looking somewhat like the Pujols of old. His eight home runs are tops in the league, but he's still only hitting .274, which would be the second-lowest number in his career.

Either way, congrats to one of the best players in this generation.

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