As a kid, I liked to collect baseball cards. One of my most prized possessions was always my 1986 Barry Bonds Topps rookie card. I was always so impressed with Bonds.
I was a high school baseball player in 1986, and was in awe of Bonds' rare combination of speed and power.
I knew, someday, that card was going to be worth a lot of money when he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
But of course, I knew Bonds' card would pale in comparison to the value of my 1986 Jose Canseco Topps Rookie card.
As one half of the "Bash Brothers" with Mark McGwire, he was, quite possibly, the greatest player of his era.
He was the first player to ever hit at least 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season (Bonds did it 8 years later).
My brother and I always pretended to be McGwire and Canseco while whacking home runs during our Wiffle Ball games.
And speaking of McGwire, few of my cards meant more to me personally than my 1987 McGwire Topps card.
As a Cardinals fan, McGwire became a St. Louis legend in 1998 when he set the single season home run record with an astounding 70. He broke a record that had stood for 37 years, and we knew he'd hold the record forever.
As it turned out, he would hold the record for just three years, thanks to Bonds.
Sadly, the revelation that all three of these great players probably achieved a healthy portion of their success while on steroids, shattered the aura of my proud collection (not to mention the value!).
That' s where Albert Pujols comes in. The Cardinals slugger represents the anti-steroids era. The value of the 2001 Albert Pujols Topps rookie card is already higher than the Bonds, Canseco and McGwire cards combined. That's scary, considering Pujols is only in his sixth major league season. The 26-year-old has accomplished more in his first five seasons, then any player in major league history.
Extend those numbers over a 20 year career (Bonds has played 21 seasons, while Hank Aaron played 23 seasons), and the great Pujols would shatter nearly every record, including runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, and total bases. He would finish third in hits, but that's because Pete Rose and Ty Cobb both played 24 seasons (extend Pujols numbers over 24 seasons and he'd own that record as well!).
I know what you're thinking. It is unfair to all of those record holders to project Pujols' numbers over 20 years.
I say it's unfair to Pujols. First of all, Pujols' work ethic keeps him in great shape, and as helped him avoid any serious injuries. Second, who says Pujols will only play 20 years? And third, who says Pujols' numbers won't improve over the next 10 to 15 years? I mean, he's on pace this season to hit 79 home runs (a new record) and produce 203 RBI (a new record). He could end up being the greatest hitter of all time, bar none.
That kind of success would make my Bonds, Canseco and McGwire rookie cards absolutely worthless. Too bad I don't own Pujols' rookie card!