Albert Pujols

MLB on Sling: Albert Pujols Just a Double Play From Immortality

Future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols has been teetering on the brink of a different kind of immortality since July 1, when he came up with one out and men on first and second, only to ground into a double play for the 349th time in his Hall-of-Fame career, leaving him one shy of tying the all-time record. The man ahead of him? Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who ground into his 350th and final double play on September 7 against the Seattle Mariners.

Number 3 on the all-time list? Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, who will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame later this month, despite hitting into 337 DPs. Next comes Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski, Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, and Jim Rice, Hall of Famers all. It’s not until you get down to #9 on the list do you find a non-HoF’er, Julio Franco, who hit into 312 double plays in a career that spanned 26 years, and saw him play until the ripe old age of 48. Of the top 50 all time, 20 are already in the Hall, and among the rest are surefire future inductees Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez*, Adrian Beltre, Chipper Jones, Robinson Cano, Pete Rose*, Manny Ramirez*, and David Ortiz*. — that’s 30 of the top 50.

Cabrera, who hit into DPs on July 6 and 7, currently sits at 289 double plays, just 60 behind Pujols. Given that he’s averaged about 23 a year from 2011 forward, and he’s three years younger than Pujols, you have to like his chances of taking this dented crown. Pujols is signed through 2021, which means he’s got four more years after this season to pad his lead, while Cabrera, is locked up for the next six years, at minimum, and potentially more if he vests his options by finishing in the top 10 in MVP balloting during the last two seasons — yes, it’s unlikely.

Pujols has led the league in double plays three times to Miggy’s two titles, while also being more consistent in his career, hitting into 20 or more an MLB-record 10 times, and he’s on pace to pad that record this year. Cabrera, meanwhile has just 7 20-GIDP seasons, leaving him a tie for third with Billy Butler and Miguel Tejada.

Of course it stands to reason that Hall of Famers should dominate such a list, given that you have to play a long time to make it to Cooperstown, but the greats have also flexed quite a bit of muscle on  the single-season record. Jim Rice has four of the top 30 DP totals, including the top two with 36 and 35, which he managed in 1984 and 1985. Ripken is tied for 3rd at 32; Pudge is tied with Bobby Doerr and Rice for 8th at 31; Winfield is tied for 14th with Yaz and Ernie Lombardi at 31; Pujols, Miggy, Rice, and Brooks Robinson are all knotted at 19th with 29 — that’s 11 of the 30 highest single-season GIDP totals.

Greg Norton was a light hitting corner infielder for the Chicago White Sox in 1998 when he tied Sid Gordon’s Major League record by hitting into a double play for six games in a row. Interestingly, each man’s streak was sandwiched around a game in which he appeared, but did not have an official at bat. In the midst of Norton’s streak, he appeared in a game as a pinch hitter and drew a walk, while Gordon started a game at 3B, made an error and got pulled before he got a chance to bat.

The record for GDiP in a single game is a 148-way tie at 3, achieved most recently by Seattle Mariner Danny Valencia on May 30 against the Colorado Rockies. And Martin Prado, Dave Concepcion and Billy Conigliaro share the distinction of being the only guys in baseball history to ground into 3 DPs twice in their careers. Conversely, Roger Repoz, an outfielder with the Angels, on June 27, 1967, started a streak of a record 313 games without grounding into a double play, while Tony Womack in 1998 completed a streak of 915 at bats without getting doubled up. No one in the game’s history was better at stay out of the double play than Brett Butler, who in 9,545 career plate appearances, was doubled up just 62 times, just once every 154 plate appearances, or about as many times as Pujols in three average seasons.

Baseball’s record keeping of double plays is incomplete prior to 1933, but since then all three men who have held the all-time DP title, Ernie Lombardi, Hank Aaron, and Ripken, have made it to the Hall, with Pujols poised to carry on the tradition, and Cabrera almost sure to keep the flame in a few years. 



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