The modern Cardinals can almost be defined by their distinct eras. We will be exiting the Yadier Molina era with Molina’s retirement at the conclusion of the 2022 season and before then there was the Albert Pujols Era. Those two eras alone cover roughly 15 years of history. Before that? Well, the eras become a little more difficult to define. But I tried! Here are my results:
Something to first note: I checked this all manually — if anyone knows of a database out there with this information in it, feel free to drop it in the comments because that would be helpful to look even further into history!
A few things stand out to me about this. The first thing: to accomplish what Yadier Molina accomplished is rare and I don’t think we will ever see that from a catcher again. Obviously 2012 through 2022 is The Yadi Era.
Next we have the Albert Pujols Era. That starts in 2007 and ends in 2011. Arguably the Pujols Era begins in his rookie season in 2001, but that is not looking at top players on the team, just the ones that have been there the longest.
After Albert Pujols it gets a little trickier to figure out which player was there the longest. It took a lot of checking Baseball Reference pages. I am calling this era the Left and Returned Era. I noted this with the asterisk — those denoted that way are non-consecutive years. I included those mostly because I didn’t want to put more work into this than I already had, but also I thought it was interesting just how many times that occurred, especially in the wake of Albert Pujols’s return to the Cardinals for his final season. The long-time players tend to come back.
I thought that would take us into the Ray Lankford Era, but Willie Mcgee’s return occurred then so the Left and Returned Era continued before we finally get to the Ozzie Smith Era. This is where I stopped because I really needed to finish this post so you have something to read today.
Adam Wainwright’s status is up in the air — I was leaning towards him retiring but after reading his recent comments, that seems less likely to me now. If Waino returns he would make his first appearance on this list despite being in the organization since 2005. If he does retire though who does that leave? The longest tenured MLB player currently on the team after Pujols, Molina, and Waino would be Paul Goldschmidt with 12 seasons. He has been with the Cardinals for only four seasons, though. Paul DeJong would be in his seventh season with Cardinals, but his future on the team is a question mark. Jack Flaherty would also be going into his seventh season. Alex Reyes made his debut in 2016 which would mean he is going into his eighth season with the team, though he did not pitch in 2017 or 2022 and he only has 145 innings pitched the other six seasons.
The Cardinals will certainly look different as the Yadier Molina era comes to a close. It has been a good time to be a Cardinals fan.