Pujols joins exclusive group to receive honor in final MLB season
November 22nd, 2022
Albert Pujols’ National League Comeback Player of the Year Award comes with a special distinction, as he won it heading into retirement.
Pujols joins a list of only six players to win the award while walking away from the game. For this list, we consider the Sporting News award from its inception in 1965 through 2004, then the official MLB award since it began in ‘05.
Here are the six players to retire after winning Comeback Player of the Year.
2022: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Pujols’ final season was one for the ages. He reached 700 homers and beyond, finishing at 703. He didn’t just reach the milestone, though, he had a stellar year across the board. His 154 OPS+ was his highest since 2010, his second-to-last season in St. Louis before he went to the Angels. Pujols hit 16 home runs in his final 45 games, setting a record for most in a player’s last 45 regular-season games. What a way to go out.
2021: Buster Posey, Giants
Posey put together one of the best seasons of his career in ‘21, on the heels of opting out of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He slugged .499 (the third-highest mark in a season of his career), was voted the NL’s starting catcher for the All-Star Game and won the Silver Slugger Award at catcher, all at the age of 34.
Posey announced his retirement on Nov. 4 after a standout career that included an NL MVP Award, NL Rookie of the Year honors, three World Series championships and numerous other accomplishments.
2013: Mariano Rivera, Yankees
Unlike Posey, Rivera announced entering the ‘13 season that it would be his last, meriting a year-long farewell tour for the unanimous Hall of Famer. He tore his right ACL in May 2012, while shagging a fly ball during batting practice, ending his season.
At the time, there were questions if it might have ended Rivera’s career, too. He returned in 2013, recording 44 saves and posting a 2.11 ERA in 64 appearances. He finished his career as a 13-time All-Star, including in his final season in which he was named All-Star Game MVP.
1997: Darren Daulton, Phillies/Marlins
A three-time All-Star, two-time MVP vote-getter and a 1992 Silver Slugger Award winner, Daulton tore his right ACL in ’95, ending his season in August, then missed most of ‘96 while rehabbing the injury.
After Daulton hit .264 with 11 homers in 84 games for the Phillies to open 1997, he was traded to the Marlins, who played him primarily at first base, as opposed to the outfield. Daulton hit .263 in 136 games for the year, earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. He announced his retirement after the Marlins won the World Series title.
1990: John Tudor, Cardinals
Tudor, who finished second in NL Cy Young Award voting in 1985, was traded from the Cardinals to the Dodgers in ’88, when he won a World Series title with Los Angeles. He hurt his left elbow that postseason, an injury that led to him missing most of the ‘89 season after Tommy John surgery, while also dealing with a shoulder ailment.
Back with the Cards in 1990 on a free-agent deal, Tudor had a 2.40 ERA in 146 1/3 innings, exhibiting a return to form. He was still dealing with the lingering effects of his injuries, though, and retired after the year.
1979: Lou Brock, Cardinals
Injuries and lesser production limited the Hall of Famer to 92 games in 1978, when he hit .221 and stole 17 bases. In ’79 — the season during which he turned 40 — Brock hit .304 (his best average since hitting .309 in ‘75) and stole 21 bases.
During his final season, Brock made the All-Star team for the sixth time in his career and notched his 3,000th career hit — he finished with 3,023 — to earn Comeback Player of the Year honors before retiring.