“Old men making plays.”

That beautiful pearl was given to us by Yadier Molina, offered after Tuesday’s 5-1 victory over the Marlins in Miami.

I want a T-shirt with that priceless message-motto on the front.

So much of the 2022 season will be about Adam Wainwright pitching to Molina, with the two of them closing in on an all-time MLB record for most starts by a pitcher-catcher battery. They’ve been doing this since late in the 2005 season, when Wainwright was 23, and Molina 22. The 2022 season will be about Albert Pujols, raising his front leg, triggering the power on his swing, stepping into a pitch and sending it into the constellations. It will be about Pujols, 42, energizing the team with his love of the game, and his love of being a Cardinal, and savoring his last tour around the bases before trotting (slowly) onto Cooperstown.

It will be about Wainwright’s pursuit of 200 career wins and strengthening a case for the baseball Hall of Fame. It will be about Molina crouching behind home plate, in dirt that should be speckled with gold, as he moves closer to 2,200 MLB games caught in his career – something that only three other men have done. It will be about the three old men – average age, 40.5 years – leading their younger teammates in ways that can’t be quantified.

For proof, all you have to do is see the reactions of Cardinals who are thrilled to be part of this special season. And 2022 will be about victories, with the three old men making winning plays, and doing their part to carry the Cardinals into another October. Pujols, Wainwright are not along for the ride. They are still out front, symbols of an enduring, magnificent era of Cardinal baseball that began when Bill DeWitt Jr. moved in as franchise chairman in 1996.

It isn’t easy for them now. Molina has to play catch-up as he deals with knee pain and conditioning after a delayed start to season preparation.

Wainwright may not throw 200+ innings this year – but don’t you dare tell him that. It’s such a treat to watch them work together. Tuesday in Miami, Wainwright performed in concert with Molina for 5.1 innings of five-hit, one-run ball. Waino was credited with his second win of the season and has a 2.81 ERA after three starts.

It was also the 201st win for the Cardinals with the Wainwright-Molina partnership at work – one victory short of the all-time mark established by the Milwaukee Braves’ combo of starting pitcher Warren Spahn and catcher Del Crandall. Molina has been the Cards’ catcher for 1,192 wins, second all-time to Pudge Rodriguez (1,254) in MLB history.

Much of Pujols’ damage will be limited to his cruelty to left-handed pitchers. Tuesday evening it was something to behold, watching him chug around the bases in Miami with a slow-burning determination, his lungs pumping at full blast, with animated teammates urging him on as he barged toward his destination. These Pujols baserunning adventures are epic in their own way, and almost as entertaining and delightful as his home runs.

You may have wondered about the old men before the season. Would this be a carnival show? A charity ball? Would this be similar to watching the declining Chuck Berry during his final year of performing at Blueberry Hill?

Apr 19, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols (5) is congratulated after scoring a run against the Miami Marlins in the second inning at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s what the Pujols-Yadi-Waino experience has been so far: A joy. A success. A celebration of the past and the present. Something that touches on every positive, powerful emotion within us. More than 20 years of Cardinal baseball, condensed into one season. If you can’t feel good about this, then you have my sincere condolences.

When the old men are out there making plays – or even leading the cheers – just look into the dugout and see the smiles, and grownup ballplayers waving towels and giggling like kids. Great players in their own right – Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado – can’t get enough of it. Pujols leaves them bouncing around like kids on Christmas morning.

Look at Wainwright fanning Pujols with a towel after Albert completed his laborious run from first to home to score on Tommy Edman’s triple. Watch Pujols and Molina talking baseball at the railing, giving each other a hard time (all in jest) before both erupt in laughter. Look at the young guys following Pujols around like lion cubs.

Pujols in particular has charmed the fans in all kinds of ways. Every Pujols at-bat is a must-watch event, and I personally haven’t felt this way since Mark McGwire approached the plate in the summer of 1998. My wife jumped out of her chair, squealing, when Pujols thundered his three-run homer Sunday in Milwaukee.

Pujols has taken each generation of Cardinal fans back to another phase of our lives, so they can relive precious moments of the past all over again, and take in all of the new glory that Pujols can generate in his final act. And he’s attracting new fans too. Just perfect. And so good for baseball.

I received a text from a friend last night – after he’d watched Pujols galumph around the bases, produce a double and a single, and score two runs to raise his batting average to .389 and his OPS to 1.254.

“Small sample or whatever but I just can’t get enough of the mang. I was pumped when they signed him and just figured he’d be good vs. lefties. Was not expecting to be this excited by him. Expectations weren’t low, but this is fun.”


* Obligatory small-sample size warning. Because that’s all I have to work with … nine games and a small sample size.


1) The Cardinals rank 3rd in the majors with an average of 5.33 runs per game. Only the Guardians (5.44) and Dodgers (5.36) are scoring at a higher rate.

2) Despite inconsistent starting pitching, the Cardinals rank sixth in the majors with their average of 3.33 runs allowed per game. The top five are the Mets (2.5), Giants (2.55), Yankees (2.82), Dodgers (2.82) and Padres (3.31.)

3) The St. Louis team ERA (3.30) ranks 8th overall. The Cardinals’ fielding independent ERA (3.25) ranks fifth in the majors.

4) Plate discipline: STL hitters have the lowest strikeout rate in the majors (17.4%) and are tied for ninth with a walk rate of 9.9%.

5) Two-strike hitting: STL hitters are among the best in the majors at handling those tough two-strike situations, ranking fourth in batting average (.204) and third in OPS (.643.) The Cards are tied for second in MLB with five two-strike homers, have eight two-strike doubles. Thirteen of their 31 two-strike hits have gone for extra-bases. They’re seventh with 22 two–strike RBIs. Note: the Cardinals have produced those RBIs on fewer at-bats than all but one of the six teams ahead of them in the rankings. And just under 47 percent of their total RBIs have been delivered on two-strike counts. That’s terrific.

6) The Cardinals are hurting pitchers with their two-out hitting. When hitting with two outs the Cards are tied for first in the majors with 27 RBI, are tied for second with 28 runs scored, are first in slugging percentage (.563) and first in OPS (.936.) They have a two-out batting average of .282 (third) and an OBP of .373 (second.)

7) The Cardinals are coming through with runners in scoring position, batting .271 with a .375 OBP and .443 slug. Their .818 RISP with runners in scoring position is tied for sixth in the majors.

RYAN HELSLEY & THE BULLPEN: Relievers T.J, McFarland, Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos got the final 10 outs of Tuesday’s win to seal Waino’s strong start. And the three relievers did so without incident, giving up only one single, no walks and striking out four in 3.1 clean innings.

Helsley is outrageously nasty so far, dominating hitters in his first four appearances. He hasn’t allowed a run – and only one hit, without a walk – in four innings of shutdown relief. And Helsley has struck out eight of the 13 batters he’s faced; that’s a wicked strikeout rate of 61.5 percent. Or, if you prefer: he’s struck out hitters at a rate of 18 per nine innings. Opponents are batting .067 against Helsley’s slider and have struck out eight times in 15 at-bats.

After Tuesday’s stellar work shift, the St. Louis bullpen ranks third in the majors with a 1.95 ERA in 37 innings. The relievers have allowed a .197 batting average, .572 OPS, and the sixth-lowest hard-hit rate by a MLB bullpen.

IT’S A MANG’S WORLD: It’s been only 21 plate appearances on the season for Pujols, but he’s fourth among qualifying MLB designated hitters with his 1.254 OPS. Pujols is 6 for 9 vs. lefties with a walk, double, two homers, four RBI, a .667 average and 2.144 OPS.

TRACKING WAINO: Wainwright has been credited with 184 individual wins since moving into a starting-pitching role for the Cardinals in 2007. That ranks sixth among MLB pitchers over that time, behind Justin Verlander (210), Zack Greinke (205), Jon Lester (193), Max Scherzer (193) and Clayton Kershaw (187.) And keep in mind that Waino missed all of 2011 (elbow) and made only four starts in 2015 (torn Achilles) because of injuries. Among MLB pitchers with 350 starts since the beginning of 2007, Waino’s winning percentage (.637) ranks fifth.

A WORD ABOUT NOLAN GORMAN: He’s hit a homer in five consecutive games and has seven homers in his last seven games. He has a .854 slugging percentage and 1.254 OPS for Triple A Memphis. This is an exciting show of power by the highly touted prospect. But he’s also struck out in 40 percent of his plate appearances so far, and I’d like you to take a moment to think about how that would translate to his matchups (right now) against big-league pitching. Give it a little time, OK? I’d rather wait a while and give Gorman a better chance to succeed against MLB pitching from his first day in the bigs. The Cardinals are 9-3. They have a top-five offense in the majors. There’s no crisis here.

HELLO THERE, MASYN WINN! Winn was an exciting prospect when the Cardinals drafted 54th overall in the 2020 draft. Great running speed. Great bat speed. Rocket arm. Could pitch. Could be an outstanding shortstop. The Cardinals put him at shortstop. His raw talent needed time to develop, and it seems to be happening now. Winn is 20 years old, playing for Peoria in the high Class A Midwest League where the average age for hitters is 22.4 years. Here’s what Winn did in his first nine games this season: 40 plate appearances, two doubles, three triples, four steals, seven runs, five RBI, five walks, .455 average, .500 OBP, .697 slug, 1.197 OPS.

FINALLY: Good luck to Miles Mikolas in his start Wednesday night (5:40 p.m. STL time.) He’ll have to be good to outperform Miami starter Sandy Alcantara, the former Cardinal prospect who has a 3.16 ERA in 42 starts over the last two-plus seasons. That 3.16 ranks 12th among 44 MLB pitchers that have made at least 40 starts over that time. What would the STL rotation look like with Alcantara as the No. 2 starter?

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

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Please email your “Ask Bernie” questions to BernScoops@gmail.com

All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.

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.