Albert Pujols

How Albert Pujols won his first NL MVP Award in 2005

After placing second in 2002 and 2003 and finishing third in the balloting in 2004, Albert Pujols finally won the first MVP Award of his career on November 15, 2005.

Though in previous years Pujols had dismissed the importance of individual recognition in a team game, he admitted that on the eve of the Baseball Writers Association of America announcement, he endured a sleepless night wondering whether it was finally his turn to be named MVP.

“I slept two hours last night,” Pujols said. “I couldn’t wait for this moment. When I got that call, it felt like that home run I hit against Brad Lidge. Everyone was calling saying how much I deserved that. It’s a great feeling, but you still need to be humble. You can’t let this award take you too high.”[1]

If anything, it was Pujols’ season totals that were reaching new heights. For the third year in a row, he led the majors with 129 runs scored. Among National League players, he was tied for first in multi-hit games (57); second in batting average (.330), RBIs (117), total bases (360), OBP (.430), and slugging percentage (.609); third in home runs (41) and extra-base hits (81); and fourth in hits (195). For the fourth consecutive year, he had more walks (97) than strikeouts (65).




Despite battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot, Pujols not only led the majors in runs scored but also led the Cardinals with 16 stolen bases. As the season progressed, Pujols’ favoring of his right foot led to a hamstring strain that he endured for the final two months of the season. Pujols underwent surgery on the foot two weeks after the postseason ended.[2]

“I tried to hide it, but I couldn’t,” said Pujols, who appeared in 161 regular-season games. “It was bothering me almost since the season started.”[3]

Despite the pain, Pujols was the model of consistency throughout the season, totaling at least six homers and 16 RBIs every month of the season. On May 9, he hit two homers and drove in all four of the Cardinals’ runs in a 4-2 win over the Dodgers. Two months later, he extended his longest hitting streak of the season to 17 games with three hits, including a homer, in a 7-1 win over the Diamondbacks.

On August 31, an RBI triple gave him his 100th RBI of the season. With the milestone, he joined Al Simmons, Ted Williams, and Joe DiMaggio as the only players to begin their careers with five seasons of at least 100 RBIs.




Though the MVP voting already had taken place, Pujols added one more memorable moment on October 17 when he hit a three-run, ninth-inning home run off Lidge, the Astros’ closer, to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win in Game 5 of the NLCS.

“Albert’s award was well-deserved because he was the most valuable to our team across the board, as soon as he showed up to the ballpark until he left,” La Russa said. “His value went beyond statistics, as he was active in mentoring younger players and always available to discuss the game of baseball.”[4]

Pujols became more and more important to the Cardinals’ offense as Scott Rolen, Reggie Sanders, and Larry Walker went down with injuries, combining to play in just 51% of St. Louis’s regular-season games. With Pujols leading the way, the Cardinals posted 100 wins for the best record in baseball.

“I kept running into people who said the one thing (Braves center fielder Andruw Jones) had going for him was he really had to pick up the slack when people (on the Braves roster) got hurt,” La Russa said. “Look at our situation and the reality of how Albert was able to sustain his season. With him in the lineup, he helped the people we plugged in be themselves. It’s a definition of ‘most valuable.’ He helped everyone play the game because he took the pressure off.”[5]




At season’s end, the voters rewarded Pujols with 18 of 32 first-place votes to finish with 378 points. Jones, who received 13 first-place votes, finished with 351 in the closest balloting since Braves third baseman (and former Cardinal) Terry Pendleton edged Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds in 1991.

Jones led the league with 51 homers and 128 RBIs but hit just .263 for the season, including a .207 average with runners in scoring position. In contrast, Pujols hit .340 with runners in scoring position and the NL with 36 go-ahead RBIs. He ranked second with 20 game-winning RBIs.

“I think he deserved it,” Jones said. “The voting was the right vote. He was the right choice. He had the most solid season average-wise, home run-wise, and RBI-wise.”[6]

Derek Lee, who was the National League batting champion with a .335 average, placed third in the voting with one first-place vote and 262 points. He led the league in hits, average, slugging percentage, and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) but played for a Cubs team that went just 79-83 on the season.




“Derek Lee had a strong case for the MVP but was penalized for being surrounded by losers,” wrote St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz. “Lee should have, at minimum, finished second to Pujols.”[7]

Pujols’ MVP trophy marked the 15th time a Cardinal had been named most valuable player since the award was created in 1931 and the first time since Willie McGee won it in 1985. He became just the 13th player in franchise history to be named MVP (Stan Musial won the award three times).

“That’s something you’re going to keep in your heart,” Pujols said. “I’ll never forget this day.”[8]

Pujols’ recognition combined with Chris Carpenter’s Cy Young Award win also made history, as the Cardinals became the first National League team to have players win both awards since Atlanta’s Tom Glavine won the Cy Young and Pendleton won the MVP in 1991.




Carpenter finished eighth in the NL MVP voting with 82 points, while teammates David Eckstein and Jim Edmonds also received votes.

“Now I can say I’ve got one,” Pujols said. “Now my next goal is to get that ring, for myself, for our team, for the Cardinals organization, and for the fans of St. Louis.”[9]

Pujols did exactly that the following year, helping to lead the Cardinals to the 2006 world championship. In 2008 and 2009, he won the second and third MVP trophies of his career, respectively, joining Musial as the only players in franchise history with multiple MVP seasons.





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[1] Joe Strauss, “No more worrying for Pujols: prize is his,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2005.

[2] Joe Strauss, “No more worrying for Pujols: prize is his,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2005.

[3] Joe Strauss, “No more worrying for Pujols: prize is his,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2005.

[4] Joe Ostermeier, “Pujols receives his highest honor,” Belleville News-Democrat, November 16, 2005.

[5] Joe Strauss, “No more worrying for Pujols: prize is his,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2005.

[6] Joe Ostermeier, “Pujols receives his highest honor,” Belleville News-Democrat, November 16, 2005.

[7] Bernie Miklasz, “Number 5 is the charm as Pujols gets his due,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2005.

[8] Joe Ostermeier, “Pujols receives his highest honor,” Belleville News-Democrat, November 16, 2005.

[9] Joe Ostermeier, “Pujols receives his highest honor,” Belleville News-Democrat, November 16, 2005.