Cardinals Legends Retire


After a shock ending to the season for the Cardinals last year, the team got a new manager and long time legend back, Albert Pujols. After the Redbirds won the World Series in 2011, Pujols signed a huge ten-year-deal with the Angels. This was unfortunate for Cardinal fans, given that Pujols was a 9x all-star and 3-time MVP. He did not produce the same results for the Angels, batting only 0.256 per ten pitches. With the Cardinals, Pujols had only one season with a less than 0.300 batting average. 

      Because of his poor results, he was released from the Angels in early July 2021. He then went to play with the Dodgers for the rest of the season, signing a contract that ended immediately after the season. After that season people wondered where he would sign next. The Cardinals hoped he would return home. With the National League having changed its standards to allow designated hitters for the first time, Pujols only played designated hitter rather than first basemen with the Angels. So the Cardinals signed a deal with the Dodgers, bringing Pujols back home for his final year of baseball.

      After signing a one-year deal with the team to round out his career, Yadier Molina, long time catcher for the Cardinals since 2004, also said this would be his last year. Adam Wainwright, starter since 2006, was also thought to be ready to retire after his illustrious career, but this was never confirmed by Wainwright himself. 

       The preseason Cardinals looked pretty good, but the question of who would be the starting pitcher remained. Jack Flaherty was injured and J.A Happ and John Lester both announced their retirement after the end of the previous season. Thankfully though, the Cardinals also signed Stephen Matz, a solid pitcher for the Blue Jays, in 2021. When opening day came around in April, fans in Busch Stadium went crazy when they saw Pujols back in a Cardinals uniform. When Pujols hit his first homer, the back of Busch stadium was electric. The crowd at Busch would return to their feet for the remainder of the season every time Pujols stepped up to the plate. 

         Their pitching was not great with Flaherty coming back for two weeks in June and getting immediately injured again. Stephen Matz also got injured in late July and Wainwright, although pitching well, was not having the best season of his career. The batting was sometimes great, sometimes nonexistent. As the Cardinals and Brewers battled for the first spot in their division, each was eligible for a wild card spot. 

       In 2021, the MLB developed new rules wherein the top three division winners advance to the playoffs with the top two division winners getting a bye to the division league series. The new rules developed state that the division leader who does not get a bye will host all three games and play the last place wild card after the other two wild card teams play each other. 

      First baseman Paul Goldschmidt was having a pretty good season, but following August 2022, his average changed. Goldschmidt led the league in batting average. Cards fans were also acutely aware that Pujols needed 22 homers in this season to get 700 home runs, which he had done almost every year until 2019. As Pujols was getting closer to 700, he got his 697 home run, passing Alex Rodriguez’s home run total, in Pittsburgh. Then he got his 698 back at  Busch, and in LA, he got his 699 and 700 on the same night! Only three other guys have accomplished the same feat, Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth. Pujols was not the only athlete working to make history, with Aaron Judge trying to get the American League record in single-season home runs as well. Pujols then hit his 701 at Busch, ending with  702 on his last game for the regular season. Cardinals manager, Oliver Marmol, took Yadi,  Wainwright, and Pujols out at the same time leading to a standing ovation from Cardinals fans. 

      Another historic moment for the Cardinals in mid-September was when Molina and Wainwright got the all-time battery record by getting 328 starts as a battery duo, beating the previous record of 325. Then Pujols also beat Babe Ruth’s record to become the individual with the second most RBIs in MLB history by getting his 703rd homer and last regular season homer.

     During the playoffs, all three games were held in St. Louis, with Quantina on the mound for game one. After an uneventful game, the score ended in a 6-2 final. Injury and a lack of offense took the Cards out of contention for the playoffs against the Phillies. The next day was even more heartbreaking, when at the top of the second inning Bryce Harper hit a two-run homer. Thankfully, Miles Mioklas pitched a good game with Montgomery pitching well as a backup. While the Cardinals would lose to the Phillies 2-0, Molina and Puljos both had a hit on their last career at-bats. The final also spurred the end of their career. 

While the outcome of this season was certainly disappointing, given the momentum the Cardinals had gained throughout August, there is hope for next year. The Cardinals have some young and rising stars with even more potential for trades during the period of free agency. One thing is for sure; however, the Cardinals will likely never see a trio of legends like Yadier Molina, Albert Puljos and Adam Wainwright again.