If there is any justice in baseball’s Hall of Fame elections – and there are some people who aren’t so sure about that – then Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina will share the Cooperstown podium together in 2028.
If ever there were two no brainer, first ballot choices, Pujols and Molina are the ones. They went out together when the St. Louis Cardinals were bounced from the wild card playoffs by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Consider their credentials.
At age 42, Pujols put on a spectacular sprint into retirement this season. He was struggling along with a .215 batting average and six home runs at the All-Star break, well removed from his goal of 700 home runs. And then he went on a tear, batting .323 with 18 home runs in the second half of the season.
He finished with 703 home runs, joining Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth in that very exclusive club. His 2,218 runs batted in are second only to Aaron and Pujols and Aaron are the only players in baseball history with 700 home runs and 3,000 hits.
Molina, 40, was the glue behind the plate that held together two generations of Cardinal pitchers over a 19-year career. He was a 10-time All Star and won nine gold gloves. The third brother to play the position behind Bengie and Jose, he was the best of them.
Ironically, Pujols and Molina both went out with base hits in their final at-bats in the playoffs, a kind of symmetrical and rather perfect conclusion to brilliant careers.
They both professed no sadness at the end. They looked around the sea of red – required attire in Busch Stadium – took a mind’s eye snapshot of the moment and headed to the clubhouse one last time.
Both of them were treasured teammates, not just for their production on the field but for their presence on the team. They exuded professionalism, set a standard of excellence for their teammates. They were two very special players.
Now, the Cardinals move on without them, knocked out of the playoffs suddenly after winning the National League Central Division championship. It was a quick end. They always are when the achievements of a 162-game season vanish in a best-of-three game playoff series.
The achievements of Pujols and Molina will last much longer than that in St, Louis lore and it would only seem right for them to be honored together at the Hall of Fame.