He added: “My mind is not even there. My mind is on staying focused, healthy and hopefully trying to help this ball club win this year, and that’s it. If I feel at the end of the year that that’s it, I’ll announce it.”
Whenever Pujols and Cabrera — who will turn 38 in April — choose to retire, the drop-off in the active leaders of some categories could be enormous. They are not only far ahead of their contemporaries in many statistics, but some of the players closest to them are nearing their own ends as well.
Pujols will enter the coming season with 3,236 hits. Cabrera, with 2,866 hits, has a decent shot at his goal of 3,000. The only other hitters with 2,000 or more are Robinson Cano (2,624), who is suspended for the entire 2021 season; Nick Markakis (2,388), who is 36 and once considered opting out of 2020; and Yadier Molina (2,001), a 36-year-old catcher seemingly not long for the game. That leaves a possibility of the active hits leader entering 2022 being an unlikely player like Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers (1,963) or Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds (1,908).
Among players 30 or younger, Starlin Castro of the Washington Nationals (1,633) and Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros (1,610) are the active leaders, but either one making a run at 3,000 seems remote. Mike Trout long ago surpassed Pujols and Cabrera as the game’s best hitter, but thanks to a high number of walks and an overall change in how the game is played, the 29-year-old Trout hasn’t had even 150 hits in a season since 2016. With 1,380 career hits, Trout’s making a run at 3,000 looks, for now, a long shot.
The drop-offs in active leaders of other categories are just as extreme.
In home runs, Pujols (662) and Cabrera (487) are comfortably ahead of Edwin Encarnacion (424), Nelson Cruz (417) and Braun (352). The top player who could reasonably be described as still in his prime is Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees, whose 312 career homers have him less than halfway to Pujols at age 31.