The Cardinals may have another managerial candidate if, for whatever reason, they decide to move on from Oli Marmol.

Move over, Yadier Molina.

According to Grandes en los Deportes, Cardinals demigod Albert Pujols has been retained to manage Dominican Winter League’s Escogido Baseball Club. The Leones are based in Santo Domingo, where Pujols spent much of his childhood.

Molina wants to become a manager in the majors. He got a head start on his close friend Pujols by managing the Puerto Rican Criollos de Caguas club that advanced to this year’s Caribbean Series before losing.

On Dec. 6 the Cardinals announced that Molina would be joining the organization as a special assistant to President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. Molina, taking a break after the Caribbean Series, hasn’t visited the Cardinals’ spring-training camp in Jupiter, FL. But he’ll have role with the Cardinals in 2024 — he’ll be teaching players on the field, and he’ll be learning about the inner workings of a major-league front office.

Late last season, while in town to honor retiring teammate Adam Wainwright, Pujols informed friends around the Cardinals of his desire to coach or manage at some point in the future. He specifically mentioned St. Louis but wasn’t angling for a specific job. Pujols likes and admires Marmol and considers him a friend.

In an early-November interview with Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold, Pujols aired his yearning to manage.

“I think if the right time comes and it’s the right scenario, of course — what player doesn’t want to be a manager?” Pujols told Goold. “You know what I mean? For me, my time will come if it’s the right thing.”

Pujols has acted on his urges by agreeing to manage Escogido in the D.R. But if Pujols subsequently pursues a coaching or manager’s job in MLB, the goal is complicated by his personal services contract with the Los Angeles Angels. That could be a bristly issue.

Pujols, 44, retired after an incredible, love-filled 2022 reunion season with the Cardinals. Since then he began a broadcasting role for the MLB Network and was hired by Major League Baseball as a special envoy to the Dominican Republic.

A year ago, Pujols talked about managing – or returning to the majors in a prominent capacity – but declined to set a timetable.

“If it happens next year, it’s great,” Pujols said at the time. “Knowing myself, I think I’ll let that moment come and I’ll revisit if it’s something I think that works, I’ll do it for sure.”

Would Pujols make a good major-league manager? I believe so, yes.


1. Baseball IQ: Off the Charts.

I’ve covered Major League Baseball since the early 1980s and Pujols is the most intelligent player I’ve known. I don’t think anyone in the game can outsmart him. His baseball aptitude is remarkable. Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci once wrote about making an offseason visit to observe Pujols in a batting-cage session.

“To be inside the cage, with Pujols providing the lecture notes to what he does, is to be inside Room 109 of Princeton’s Fine Hall in the days of Einstein,” Verducci wrote.

Pujols is the only player in MLB history that has 700+ homers, 2,000+ RBI and multiple league MVP awards. But he was more than just an all-time great hitter.

“It’s so obvious and evident, if you watch him closely, that from his rookie year, he has played the game to win,’’ Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa said. “That means when he’s on base, he’s trying to do something to win a game as a baserunner. It’s the same on defense, at bat. If he needs to start a rally, he’ll stroke an opposite-field hit. The biggest compliment I can give Albert is he’s never changed. He’s a perfect player. In all categories of the game — hitting, running defense, cheerleading, being a mentor — you see Hall-of-Fame greatness.”

2. Pujols Commands Universal Respect In The Game.

During his 22-season career, Pujols inspired multiple generations of young players. They were in awe of his supreme talent, baseball savvy, work ethic, intense competitiveness and an adherence to the highest of standards.

“He was the best player in the game,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said of Pujols in 2019. “Everyone was looking up to him and, especially when you play that position, he sets the example. I’m sure it was a motivating factor in my career.”

Angels center fielder Mike Trout posted this message to Pujols after Albert’s final major league game: “I hope you dominate this next phase of life as much as you dominated the MLB. It’s been an honor to watch you, learn from you and play beside you.”

3. Pujols Is An Excellent Mentor and Touchstone.

“He’s totally committed to the team, helping everybody, looking out for the young guys and knowing how to communicate with veteran teammates,” La Russa said. “He sees everything and understands what players have to go through at all stages of their careers. He wants to create the best chance to win, and you can’t say enough about the significance of that. And as it turned out, he was part of mentoring the young Yadi, who’s been a big factor in the success after Albert left.”

Here’s Goldschmidt on Pujols and Molina back in 2019: “They’re very similar, very smart players who do things a lot of guys don’t even think about doing. There’s no fear in their game to make a mistake. They’re not scared to take chances and be aggressive, but smart. It was awesome to watch him do it and it’s really cool to be on Yadi’s team and watch him do it, too.”

4. Pujols Has An Imposing Presence. Bold. Unafraid. Confident. In Charge. A Winner. 

“He stands there like a man,” retired manager Felipe Alou said. “They didn’t teach him fear at home, where he grew up. It’s not part of his bag.”

The La Russa Cardinals often personified TLR’s personality: fiercely competitive, edgy attitude, capable of intimidating opponents. The other team’s dugout was often obsessed with La Russa and assumed he was up to something. TLR was feared. I think a Pujols-led team would have a similar personality. (This applies to Molina as well.)

5. Pujols Is Excellent at Handling the Media as Face of the Franchise.

In today’s game, that’s a big and important part of a manager’s job. The pure volume of media keeps growing on all platforms. The younger Pujols could be terse and taciturn. He wasn’t easy to deal with. But Pujols evolved as he matured. He now has some media experience, which increased his knowledge of how it’s supposed to be done. Pujols is exceptional at the role of being a team’s spokesman and sculpting the proper message to enlighten the public. La Russa was a genius at sending or reinforcing messages to his players through the media. Pujols would be good at it too. This gives Pujols at least one advantage over Molina, who isn’t as comfortable in a voice-of-the-franchise duty.

Would there be a downside?

I don’t know how much Pujols values advanced metrics or how closely he would work with the analytics department. The Cardinals are recommitting to this area, and the use of technology will have added importance.

Then again, Pujols is hungry to win. That much is 100 percent obvious. I would imagine that Pujols passion includes a willingness to learn and take advantage of the available information. But this man studies people, and knows how to press those buttons to get the best out if them. And that’s an essential quality for a manager,

Would Pujols the manager expect too much from players that don’t possess the talent that he brought to the competition during a 22-year playing career? In the past this has been an issue for “name” managers that had stellar, award-winning careers during their playing days. That’s become something of a meme. But if we go through history, as I like to do, you can see a bunch of Hall of Fame-caliber players who did well as managers. That list would include Tris Speaker, Cap Anson, Walter Johnson, Fred Clarke, Frankie Frisch, Bill Terry, Red Schoendienst, Yogi Berra and Mickey Cochrane. Ted Williams did better as a manager than people realize. Frank Robinson wasn’t a good manager early on, but got better during his career. I just don’t think this matters all that much. In the final years of his playing career, Pujols loved to work with younger teammates to help them find a way to improve. He was patient and caring. And MLB teams routinely give manager gigs to guys that had never managed before. It’s a different time.

This is an interesting situation.

Marmol’s contract expires after the season and Mozeliak has held off on offering an extension. The pressure is on Marmol in 2024. His name is prominent on those “Most Likely To Be Fired” lists we see at this time of year. But now we have – at least in theory – two Cardinals legends that are waiting in the wings and would likely jump at the chance to answer the call if the Cardinals wanted to make a change in the manager’s office.

Is this fair to Marmol? No. But like it or not, this is the reality … especially after the botched 2022 playoff series against Philadelphia and the 71-91 stink bomb in ’23.

It’s one thing to have Molina next in line – if, in fact, he is next in line. But now that Pujols is giving managing a try, what does that mean for a potential succession plan?

I mean, how the heck would chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and Mozeliak choose between Molina and Pujols? Or how could they bypass both Cardinal Legends to go with a more nondescript manager?

If Mike Matheny was worthy of the manager’s job in St. Louis, then how could the Cardinals possibly reject both Molina and Pujols? How could DeWitt and Mozeliak rationalize / justify that decision?

If the Cardinals’ won-lost record and home attendance lags, the thought of rousing the fan base by turning to Pujols or Molina as the next manager may be irresistible.

I’m not pushing for Marmol’s ouster. If the Cardinals turn it around, get back into the playoffs, and have a positive 2024 – well, Marmol’s job security should be just fine. But given the current situation, it would be absurd for me (or anyone) to ignore the obvious.

We can’t sit here and pretend Marmol’s job is safe. We can’t dismiss Molina and Pujols as obvious candidates for the job in an attempt to avoid hurting Marmol’s feelings. Major League Baseball is a big business that brought in an estimated $11 billon in revenue for 2023.

OK, would it make more sense to hire Pujols or Molina? That’s another column for a later time. Pujols won’t begin managing in the D.R. until after the 2024 season. Molina’s new assignment with the Cardinals starts soon. He’ll have a chance to score points – or perhaps lose points? – with ownership-management.

How do we decide? We don’t have to. That’s up to the people who run the Cardinals. But if I had to bet $5 today, I’d put my money on Marmol surviving to manage the Cardinals again in 2025. But if Oli gets sacked, it’s game on. And keep an eye on the longshot: Daniel Descalso.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

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For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.