Albert Pujols hit his 600th home run on Saturday, knocking a grand slam off Twins ace Ervin Santana. We've known for a while that this was inevitable, but it's still deserving of high praise. Pujols is only the ninth player in MLB history to reach the 600-homer plateau. It's still an exclusive club, but it has become considerably less exclusive in the last 16 years. 

From the time Hank Aaron hit his 600th home run in 1971 through the 2001 season, there were but three players with more than 600 career homers: inner-circle all-time greats Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. As we know, two of those ended up with more than 700 and Mays ended with 660. So no one was even close to these three in terms of the career long-ball acumen. 

Then things changed. The list has grown to nine, starting in 2002 and on through Pujols. The reasons are plentiful. More games are played than back in Ruth's era. Players better take care of themselves and lift weights, helping to add more power. There's more focus on home runs (I'm pretty sure Ruth wasn't hearing much about launch angle), sometimes enough focus that players aren't worried about striking out too much. Many of the ballparks are smaller. We could speculate about the effects of the possibly-juiced balls and PEDs for a stretch. A few of the players here were likely great enough to join the above trio regardless. 

Let's take a look at the chronology of the 600 home run club. 

1. Babe Ruth

On Aug. 21, 1931, the Sultan of Swat became the first-ever player with 600 homers. He was far from done, as he would club 41 the following season and eventually run his tally to 714 before all was said and done. 

2. Willie Mays

Mays joined Ruth on Sept. 22, 1969. The Say Hey Kid was well past his prime at that point, though he was still great enough to manage 28 the following season and finished at 660. 

3. Hank Aaron

It was April 27, 1971 when Aaron quickly followed Mays. Hammerin' Hank would blow by both Mays and Ruth with one of the greatest post-prime stretches in baseball history. He hit 47 home runs at age 37 that season, following it up with 34 and 40, respectively, in the next two seasons. He would finish with 755. 

Hank Aaron spent decades as baseball's all-time home run king. USATSI

4. Barry Bonds

On Aug. 8, 2002, Bonds finally became the fourth member of the club. He was far from done, hitting 45 in each of the next two seasons -- his ages 38 and 39 seasons -- before an injury-marred campaign. Bonds would finish with 26 and 28 in his final two seasons, respectively, to eclipse Aaron and end up at 762. 

It would be a few more years, but then the club started to become a bit more saturated. 

5. Sammy Sosa

On June 20, 2007, Sosa rounded the bases for the 600th time, then as a member of the Rangers (and quite hilariously, he did so to the tune of the theme from "The Natural" over the loudspeakers in Rangers Ballpark). Sosa was obviously on his last legs and would retire after just nine more home runs. 

6. Ken Griffey Jr.

Junior joined the club on June 9, 2008. He would manage 30 more, but falling short of 700 here was a reminder of how tough it is to compile so many home runs. Through age 29, Junior had 398 career bombs and at the time, many believed he -- not Bonds -- would be the one making a run at Aaron. Injuries hampered him for a good portion of his 30s, but it's a testament to his talent level that he made it all way to fifth on the all-time list, at the time. 

7. Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod was next on Aug. 4, 2010. Say what you will about A-Rod -- and many of you will certainly take me up on that -- but he was one of the most talented players in baseball history. He hit his 600th career homer in his age-34 season, becoming the youngest player to join the club. Despite a long suspension and hip issues, A-Rod still managed to get within four of joining the 700-homer club.

Rodriguez fell just short of 700 homers. USATSI

8. Jim Thome

It took him until his age-40 season, but Thome finally got it done on Aug. 15, 2011. He only had 12 homers left in him afterward, but that's still one heck of a career for anyone, let alone someone who was drafted in the 13th round. 

9. Albert Pujols

Our most recent entry is in his age-37 season. He hit 40 two years ago, 31 last year and has nine right now. He's signed through 2021 and has the ability to DH, being in the American League. Sosa and Thome are going down pretty soon. Griffey likely is as well.

One thing that's remarkable about Pujols is his consistency and durability. He has only had one season significantly impacted by injury and hit 37 homers as a rookie. He has never hit 50 homers in a season, but he has had seven seasons in the 40s and seven more in the 30s. The other two seasons were worth 17 (the injury-impacted one) and 28. 

Pujols hasn't been quite the same all-around player after signing with the Angels, but keep in mind his 11 Cardinals years: .328/.420/.617 (170 OPS+), 445 HR, 455 2B, 1,329 RBI, 1,291 R, 2,073 H. That's one of the 10 best hitting primes in MLB history. 

Kudos on joining the 600-homer club, Mr. Pujols. We look forward to a run at 700.