Major League Baseball on Tuesday night announced the two winners of the Comeback Player of the Year award for 2022: Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League and Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros for the American League.
The award goes annually to the player in each league who enjoys success during the season in question despite being confronted with obstacles of some kind. In Verlander's case, he missed the entire 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Coming off the major procedure and at the age of 39, Verlander went 18-4 for the eventual World Series champs with an MLB-best ERA of 1.75 and a K/BB ratio of 6.38. Days prior to winning Comeback Player of the Year for 2022, Verlander won the . He's now one of the most coveted arms on the free agent market and will join the rare class of hurler who pitches into his 40s.
Other AL players receiving Comeback Player of the Year votes for 2022 include Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, infielder/outfielder Matt Carpenter of the New York Yankees, and third baseman Alex Bregman of the Astros.
Speaking of thriving in one's 40s, Pujols, who served as the primary DH for the NL Central-winning Cardinals this season, enjoyed a renaissance like none other in 2022. At age 42 and having been released by the lowly Angels partway through the 2021 season, Pujols this year authored a final season for the ages: .270/.345/.550 (154) with 24 home runs in just 307 at-bats. Among those 24 home runs was career homer No. 700. While there seems little doubt that Pujols could continue producing in the proper role, he instead opted for retirement. In about five years, he'll be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Other NL players receiving Comeback Player of the Year votes for 2022 include outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves, pitcher Mark Appel of the Philadelphia Phillies, reliever David Robertson of the Phillies, infielder Brandon Drury of the San Diego Padres, pitcher Nick Martinez of the Padres, and reliever Ryan Helsley of the Cardinals.