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Friday 15th Dec 2017

Congratulations on a trio of career milestones achieved on Thursday afternoon – two in the same game and all within an hour or so of each other.

Toronto's Jose Bautista took American League Cy Young Award candidate Felix Hernandez deep in the bottom of the first inning. It was the Jays' right fielder's 50th home run of the season. It has been three years since any player last hit 50, with both Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder having accomplished the feat back in 2007.

No one saw this coming as the 29-year-old's best season in the past was just 16 home runs and even taking his three best seasons together, Bautista did not have 50. He hit just 59 long balls over his first six MLB seasons heading into this one. With two more on Friday night, Bautista now has achieved the largest single-season increase in home runs in MLB history – from 13 last season to 52 in 2010.

Looking ahead to 2011, many skeptical fantasy owners may be thinking about one-and-done 50 home run seasons like Brady Anderson in 1996. I can't blame you if you are among them, so if you want Bautista next season, just don't overpay to get him.

In a side note, Hard-Luck Felix yielded just one other hit besides Bautista's home run and still took the loss. I just can't get over all the love for Seattle's GM Jack Zduriencik given the terrible team he assembled.

Later in the same game, Ichiro Suzuki singled in the fifth inning for his 200th hit of the 2010 season. That made ten consecutive years of 200+ hits, with Ichiro the first to accomplish the feat in MLB history.

Through Thursday, Ichiro had 2,230 career hits, or an average of 223 hits per season. That is an amazing accomplishment, especially considering that he did not come over from Japan to begin his major league career until the age of 27.

The only other player to have ten 200+ hit seasons in a career was Pete Rose, but his years were not consecutive. Ichiro seems on a clear path to accomplish what Charlie Hustle has not – an invitation to an induction ceremony in Cooperstown.

In the short term, Ichiro shows no indications of slowing down but how can he not be depressed playing for a non-contender year after year?

St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols collected his 40th home run of the season on Thursday. It was a two-run shot in the third inning against the Pirates. He added another home run in the sixth, his 41st of the season.

Pujols reached the 40 home run plateau for the second season in a row and the sixth time in his career. That ties him for eighth all-time across MLB in seasons with 40 or more dingers.

It was also Pujols' 39th career multi-home run game, two better than Hall of Famer Stan Musial for the most in team history. It was Albert's sixth multi-homer game this season alone.

Looking ahead to this off-season, Pujols has just one year remaining in his seven-year, $100 million deal signed prior to the 2005 campaign. Both the player and Cardinals ownership say they want to get a deal done this winter, but the money men have also said that they can't afford to make Pujols baseball's highest-paid player.

There are others who are concerned about the Cardinals tying up 60 percent or more of their payroll on four players – Chris Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse and Pujols. A stars and scrubs approach may work in some cases in fantasy, but seems a questionable strategy in the real world.

Still, the Cardinals cannot afford the PR nightmare of trading Pujols unless his demands are shown to be far out of line. That seems unlikely, so if you can, keep Pujols for next year with no further worries than in the past.

Speaking of worries, Pujols has had two anti-inflammatory shots in his left, non-throwing elbow recently. His past issues were with the other elbow, so perhaps the latest problem can be eliminated with winter rest. Just don't expect Pujols to volunteer to sit out during the Cardinals' final nine games. It isn't going to happen.

Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league's 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

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