For the record, Albert is the one with the black hair.
From sea to shining sea, you can hear the cry go up: Albert is back! From the tops of the mountains the people sing his praises, from the plains they call his name. In every town square, every town hall, every town house, we hear the happy refrain. Every henhouse, outhouse, crackhouse, whorehouse --
Sorry, I started into kind of a Fugitive thing there, then got distracted thinking about prostitutes and crack. Sweet, nonjudgmental crack. The perfect thing to help you forget those extremely judgmental prostitutes. Well, no, I wouldn't have wasted your time if I had known this homemade Viagra wasn't going to work! And no, I do not appreciate the pointing, nor the laughing. Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Albert.
Anyway, everyone is falling all over themselves at the moment to proclaim the return of the king, with Albert Pujols showing signs of being Albert again. And sure, he's looked much better of late, and yes, I would love for him to be right again.
But you'll forgive me if I don't raise up my voice in beatification just yet. We've seen one too many false starts from Pujols this year for me to not still remain a little leery of his supposed return.
Over the homestand just completed, Albert hit 5 home runs, drove in 10, posted an OPS of about 1.500, and stole a pair of bases, all in 33 plate appearances. Not a bad month for a normal player, all things considered.
It was also the hottest streak Albert has had this season, which is, of course, cause for much joy. Even better were the two victories the Cardinals pulled out thanks to Pujols' heroics, given the Brewers have apparently decided to do their best 2010 Cincinnati Reds impression and just refuse to lose.
But does this mean Albert is really back on track, and we can all go back to having panic attacks over his impending contract situation, rather than having panic attacks over whatever malaise has infected his swing? I hope so, but this isn't the first time Albert has shown signs of life, only to yank that football back just before we can kick it.
From the 4th to the 14th of May, a 10 game stretch, Albert put up a .937 OPS in 44 plate appearances, with 6 walks to just 4 strikeouts. The power wasn't there during this stretch, as he failed to hit a single home run, but the approach looked good, he hit over .400 for a week and a half, and things felt pretty good.
Until, that is, he proceeded to put up a .646 OPS over the next 8 games while hitting into 3 double plays.
Or how about from the 14th of April to the 23rd? Albert hit 6 homers in those 9 games, drove in 11 runs, and slugged .778. The average during that span was a tad low (.278), but the power? Glorious.
Following that outburst, Albert went on his career-longest homerless streak. Didn't put another ball over the wall until the 23rd of May. His OPS during that 27 game period was .691. A full month of sub-.700 OPS performance. That's about what Ryan Theriot is doing for the season.
The point of this isn't to downgrade what Albert did this past week, or to knock the guy in any way, really. And to be fair, this latest hot streak is better than his others, substantially so. But Albert has hit in fits and starts all season so far, and much of 2010 was this way too. He hasn't been Albert for a full season since 2009, and given that backdrop, I'm just going to have to see a bit more than one week's worth of sustained brilliance from him before I join the chorus celebrating his return.