ST. LOUIS – Whether it’s Albert Pujols’ fond farewell, Adam Wainwright’s ballpark walks or Paul Goldschmidt’s hitting surge, there seems to be something for almost any baseball fan to enjoy about this year’s St. Louis Cardinals team.
To highlight the best of the best, MLB Network released an in-depth, seven-minute feature on this season’s St. Louis Cardinals team earlier this week. The must-see video came ahead of the channel’s showcase broadcast Wednesday night of the Cardinals matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
MLB Network crews recently spent time with several players, manager Oli Marmol and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak to paint of picture of the 2022 squad and their expectations.
“We’re on a mission,” said Marmol. “We’ll take our best shot.”
Battling a fourth straight postseason bid, the Cardinals carry a 48-43 record into Thursday, just two games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Central lead. With the All-Star Break on the horizon, the Cardinals are tasked with balancing nostalgia, roster development and the demand for winning ballgames. It’s a balance many within the organization know as “The Cardinal Way.”
“You try to leave this place better than when you came,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt tells MLB Network. “There’s a huge responsibility in trying to continue the tradition, not just winning, but the way the organization goes about things. I don’t take that responsibility lightly and definitely want to live up to that.”
“These guys know what winning looks like,” said Marmol. “They’ve tasted it before. They’re super intentional about showing the next group of players coming up what that work really looks like.”
The current campaign will be the last for longtime Cardinals Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. Pujols, considered one of the top hitters of his generation during his time with the Cardinals from 2001-2011, is back for a sendoff season after playing the last 10 years in California.
“It’s a blessing, and honor to be back here with the organization that gave you the opportunity to get to the big leagues,” Pujols said. “Just trying to contribute the best I can to help this organization to win.”
Pujols and Molina are both chasing some history during their final seasons. A power surge could lead Pujols to become just the fourth member of the 700-home run club. He will need 15 more home runs to accomplish that. Molina, along with starter Adam Wainwright, set the all-time MLB record for starts as a battery. The duo is less than 10 starts away, but that record likely depends on Molina’s health in the upcoming weeks.
Wainwight, unlike Pujols and Molina, has not yet publicly declared whether 2022 will be his final season. However, the 17-year veteran pitcher is making the most of his 2022 season, documenting several “Day After Pitching Old Man Walk” after starts and occasionally setting up scavenger hunts.
“It’s a tradition I started two or three years ago,” Wainwright tells MLB Network. The day after pitching, [I’m] getting up in the great arenas we pitch in, see the sights, meet the people. … As I’ve gotten older, you start looking up and say, ‘Wow, that’s very neat.’ I wished I had noticed all of those things earlier, but I’m glad I’m noticing it now.”
“He’s taking it all in,” said Marmol. “It’s a time where he gets to reflect on what he’s accomplished in this game. It’s a lot.”
Pujols, Molina and Wainwright are among the veterans who have helped young players develop their crafts in the major leagues, a promising trend for a team rostering five rookies.
“I’ve learned more these last couple months about baseball than I have in my entire life,” said rookie Brendan Donovan, who has worked with Pujols frequently.
“Getting to learn every day from the greatest players in the game that we have in the clubhouse is huge,” said rookie Nolan Gorman. “We have a few rookies that are going through it together and having great success as well. It’s been a lot of fun to have guys I came up with in the minor leagues here with me.”
“Watching [Albert] interact, not only with Yadi and Adam, but the younger players and how much he’s giving back to them, it’s just something special,” said Mozeliak.
After first becoming general manager of the Cardinals in 2008, Mozeliak was promoted to his current role as president of baseball operations in 2017. Since then, the Cardinals have brought in two perennial All-Stars, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, via trade.
“These are All-Star players, iconic players that are going to take pride in this organization,” Mozeliak tells MLB Network. “Other people talk about having windows of opportunity to win. We don’t ever want to have a window close. That’s where we talk about that perpetual model of making sure we have players coming.”
Players and staff share a common goal in mind: World Series title No. 12 in 2022.
“Our expectations are to get to the postseason, and when you get to the postseason you take your shot,” said Mozeliak. “That is what we expect.”
“I’ve experienced that, [but] don’t get me wrong, I want to do it again,” said Adam Wainwright.”
“Winning a championship, there’s nothing but that,” said Pujols, a two-time World Series champion with the Cardinals. “That was the mentality when I was here for 11 years, and that’s still the mentality today.”