Presenting the Top 10 Players of the 28-season reign of Bill DeWitt Jr. as the Cardinals owner-chairman. This covers 1996 through 2023. Previously I chose the best Cardinal players at every position during the DeWitt Era.

Here’s your Top 10 Overall. And it wasn’t easy to make choices when I got to the second part of this top 10. Feel free to disagree. The Cardinals have had so many good/great players over the last 28 seasons.

1. ALBERT PUJOLS: All I really needed to do was type in his name. In his 12 seasons as a Cardinal, he set the standard for all-around excellence, took his place among the greatest hitters in MLB history, and was an iconic leader who led the Cardinals to one of the most successful stretches in franchise history.

Pujols won three National League MVP awards as a Cardinal, and finished second or third in the voting five other times. He represented St. Louis as a nine-time All-Star and won six Silver Slugger awards and two Gold Gloves.

During the 28-season DeWitt Era of Cardinals baseball Pujols ranks first in WAR, batting average (.326), home runs (469), RBI (1,397), runs scored (1,333), extra-base hits (953), total bases (4,062), doubles (469) and runs created. And he’s second on the DeWitt leaderboard in OPS+ (169), hits (2,168) and on onbase percentage (.417).

With Pujols as their resident legend the Cardinals competed in eight postseasons in his 12 years with the team. The Redbirds won 40 postseason games and captured three NL pennants and two World Series. His impact can be measured this way: before Pujols arrived in 2001, the Cardinals had made the playoffs two times over a 12-season stretch. Pujols put up a profound set of offensive numbers in his 76 postseason games for the Birds on the Bat. In those eight postseasons he batted .327, had a .435 onbase percentage, slugged .596, constructed a 1.031 OPS, clubbed 18 doubles, smashed 18 home runs and knocked in 52 RBI.

What a spectacular career, combining the best of individual achievement and team prosperity. He inspired teammates, thrilled fans, and was the driving force in the relentless pursuit of winning. What Pujols did for this franchise will never be matched by any Cardinal in future generations.

2. YADIER MOLINA: The soul of the franchise for a remarkable 19 seasons, Molina kept the Cardinals thriving with his brilliance as a catcher, all-encompassing leadership and indefatigable competitive edge. With Molina at the center of the Cardinals universe, the Redbirds ranked third in regular-season wins, second in postseason wins, and had the second-best ERA in the majors. During Molina’s time in St. Louis, DeWitt’s club competed in 13 postseasons, won four NL pennants and two World Series titles.

In a career that began in 2004 and ended with his retirement after the 2022 season, Molina was selected to 10 All-Star teams, awarded nine Gold Gloves and four Platinum Gloves, and received National League MVP votes in five seasons. In 28 seasons of DeWitt Era baseball in St. Louis, Molina ranks first in hits (2,168), games (2,224) and is second to Pujols in a number of categories including WAR, total bases, extra-base hits, RBI, doubles and runs scored.

Yadier was some kind of winner. Since Molina took over for Mike Matheny as the full-time catcher in 2005 season, there was a significant difference in the team’s success with Molina behind the plate:

* When Molina started a game at catcher from 2005 through 2022: a team winning percentage of .562.

* When Molina didn’t start a game at catcher from 2005 through 2022: a team winning percentage of .520.

Molina ranks sixth in MLB history for most postseason games – 104 – which are the most by a National League player at any position. And Molina is the winningest postseason catcher in National League history, calling pitches, throwing out runners and delivering hits in 52 triumphs. His home run lifted the 2006 Cardinals over the Mets in Game 7 of the NLCS and set up the team’s first World Series title since 1982.

Pujols was the greatest player I’ve covered in St. Louis sports. And Yadier Molina was the greatest competitor I’ve covered in St. Louis sports.

3. ADAM WAINWRIGHT: In terms of starting pitching, the Cardinals had a Bob Gibson Era, winning two World Series and three NL pennants between 1964 and 1968. But the Adam Wainwright Era materialized during DeWitt’s current 28-year term as franchise owner-chairman.

Just look at the size of the gap between Waino and the team’s other starting pitchers from 1996 through 2023:

* Wins: Wainwright 200, Matt Morris 101
* Strikeouts: Waino 2,202, Chris Carpenter 1,085
* Starts: Waino 411, Morris 206, Carpenter 197
* Innings: Waino 2,668.1, Morris 1,377.1
* Games: Waino 478, Jason Isringhausen 401.
* WAR: Wainwright 47.6, Carpenter 27.5

Wainwright lost time to serious injuries in 2011 and 2014, but he was a towering presence in Cardinals baseball from late in 2005 through the end of his final season in 2023.

In addition to being the second-greatest starting pitcher in franchise history, Wainwright took over as the team’s emergency closer in 2006 and the fearless rookie closed out three postseason rounds with saves as the Cards won their first World Series since 1982. During the 2006 postseason Wainwright didn’t allow a run in 9 and ⅔ innings and struck out 39.4 percent of his 38 batters faced. It was just an extraordinary performance under pressure by the 24 year old righthander. In all, Waino had a 2.83 ERA in 114 and ⅓ postseason innings for the Cardinals.

Wainwright’s oversized personality made him especially endearing to fans. His well-earned popularity is right up there with some of the all-time franchise greats during generations of winning baseball.

4. JIM EDMONDS: Brash. Bold. Daring. Dramatic. Defensively capable of stealing home runs to save the day, and offensively capable of stroking home runs to ruin the day for opponents. He had star power, home-run power, and a performance-artist flair for gravity-defying aerobatics in center field. Jimmy specialized in big moments on the grand stage including his heroics in Game 6 and Game 7 to defeat the Astros in the NLCS.

Edmonds is enshrined in the Cardinals Hall of Fame, and is, without question, the top outfielder of the DeWitt Era. And in DeWitt’s 28 seasons as owner-chairman, only three Cardinals have amassed more WAR than Edmonds: Pujols, Molina and Wainwright.

There is no WAR for entertainment value, and Edmonds was a sensational, charismatic entertainer. His eight seasons in St. Louis (2000-2007) were marked by six Gold Gloves, 241 home runs, more than 700 runs batted in, and six postseason showcases. In 61 postseason games – 33 of which were wins – Edmonds batted .277 with a .523 slug and .890 OPS. His October star turns included 15 doubles, 13 homers and 41 RBI. During the DeWitt Era, Edmonds was the second-best hitter (to Pujols) in postseason ball.

5. CHRIS CARPENTER: He won the National League Cy Young award in 2005. His 10 postseason wins during the DeWitt Era are twice as many as Lance Lynn, who ranks second with five. During Carpenter’s glory days as a Cardinal the team won 10 different postseason series – and the intimidating, glaring right-hander was credited with at least one win in each of those rounds. Carpenter was an awesome big-game hunter who excelled during two postseasons that ended in a World Series parade for the Cardinals. As the ace of the staff in 2006 and 2011, Carpenter made 11 postseason starts (combined), had a 7-1 record, and pitched to a 3.02 ERA. The Cardinals were 9-2 in his 11 starts in the two memorable postseasons. One of my most enjoyable career experiences and memories came at Philadelphia in 2011. I sat next to the late, great Rick Hummel for Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS and watched Carpenter win a 1-0 duel over Roy Halladay – an epic performance in victory that gave an upset over the Phillies and a spot in the NLCS. In all, Carpenter made 18 postseason starts for St. Louis, and the Cardinals went 13-5 in his assignments. This Cardinals Hall of Famer was just as intense as Molina, and that’s saying something. Think about that for a moment. Can you imagine being a hitter in a postseason game against the Cardinals and having Carpenter pitch to Molina? That’s scary stuff, man.

6. SCOTT ROLEN: He’s a Baseball Hall of Famer. He’s a Cardinals Hall of Famer. And both honors are connected, because Rolen wouldn’t be enshrined in Cooperstown without his six seasons in St. Louis (2002-2007.) As a Cardinal Rolen was selected to three All-Star teams and honored with four Gold Gloves. He teamed with Pujols and Edmonds to form the “MV3” triumvirate in 2004.

In his Cardinal years, Rolen led NL third basemen in WAR. With Rolen as their starting third baseman the Cardinals led the NL in regular-season winning percentage (.581), competed in more postseason games (48) and won more postseason games (27) than any team in the majors.

Rolen’s exquisite defense enhanced St. Louis pitching; from 2004 through 2007 he was credited with the most defensive runs saved (72) by a major-league third baseman.

Rolen propelled the Cardinals to the 2004 World Series by breaking a sixth-inning tie with his two-run homer in NLCS Game 7 against the Astros. The Cardinals went on to win 5-2 and clinch a spot in the ‘04 World Series. And in the 2006 World Series – the Cards defeated Detroit in five games – Rolen batted .421 with a .476 onbase percentage and .737 slug for a 1.213 OPS.

7. MATT HOLLIDAY: During his peak years with the Cardinals – 2009 through 2014 – Holliday led National League outfielders in park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+), performing at a level that was 47 percent above league average offensively. Over that time he batted .300 with a .386 onbase percentage and .505 slug for an .890 OPS. And he was third among NL outfielders in RBI during the stretch. In St. Louis Holliday was chosen to four NL All-Star teams and received MVP votes in five seasons.

During the 28-year DeWitt Era, Holliday has the most doubles and RBI by a team outfielder – and ranks second among outfielders in homers and wRC+. And among outfielders that have at least 1,000 plate appearances over the 28 seasons only Jim Edmonds has a higher OPS than Holliday’s .871. Holliday was excellent when hitting with runners in scoring position during his St. Louis career, batting .313 with a .408 onbase percentage and .497 slug. When batting with RISP Holliday performed 45 percent above league average in those situations (per wRC+). All of this made Holliday an easy choice for enshrinement into the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

8. EDGAR RENTERIA: He’s the best shortstop of the DeWitt ERA, and it isn’t even close. Renteria was 22 when acquired from Miami, and started at short from 1999 through 2004. During the DeWitt years (1996-2023) Renteria has the most WAR among the team’s shortstops and is at the top of the leaderboard at the position in RBI, stolen bases, doubles and runs scored. Since 1996 he also ranks second among Cardinal shortstops in home runs and batting average.

Renteria is the only Cardinal in franchise history to win a Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger in the same season multiple times. He did that in consecutive years, 2002-2003. And from 2000 through 2004, the Cardinals had a 427-300 record (.587) in games started by Renteria. Just a fantastic player who should be in the team’s Hall of Fame.

9. MATT CARPENTER: This is where the remaining Top 10 selections turn really difficult. I should have taken the easy way out by going with a Top 15 instead. But Carpenter deserves to be on this list of 10. During the 28-season DeWitt Era, only three St. Louis position players have more WAR than Carpenter: Pujols, Molina and Edmonds. And among hitters that have at least 2,000 plate appearances as Cardinals over the last 28 seasons, Carpenter ranks in the top 10 in slugging, RBI, onbase percentage, extra-base hits, total bases, walks, OPS, and wRC+. And he’s among the top five in several of those categories. Carpenter did exceptional work as a leadoff hitter. He rates among the best in baseball during this era with a .382 onbase percentage and .482 slug when hitting at the top of the lineup. Per wRC+, that made him 37 percent above league average offensively as a leadoff man.

His positional versatility was a plus. Carpenter wasn’t smooth defensively but he helped the Cardinals by playing third base, first base or second base based on the team’s needs. The Cardinals made the postseason in Carpenter’s first four seasons as a starter and won the NL pennant in 2013. And ‘13 was his best season, as Carpenter finished 40 percent above league average offensively – in addition to leading the NL in runs scored, hits and doubles – in addition to his 78 RBI, 73 extra-base hits and 301 total bases.

10. MATT MORRIS: During the DeWitt Era, “Matty Mo” ranks third among team starting pitchers in WAR, behind only Adam Wainwright and Matt Carpenter. Only Wainwright has more wins than Morris for the Cardinals over the last 28 seasons. And Morris ranks second in starts and third for most innings. Morris was a two-time All-Star who had tough luck in the postseason, getting charged with four losses despite pitching to a 1.82 ERA in the four defeats. In 2001, Morris went 22-8 with a 3.16 ERA and finished third in the NL Cy Young voting. He’s waiting for his name to be called to join other Redbird greats in the team’s Hall of Fame.


11. Mark McGwire: Cardinals Hall of Famer. Who will forget the record 70 home runs in 1998? He probably should be in the top 10.

12. Ray Lankford Cardinals Hall of Famer. Underrated – and still is considering that he didn’t make the first 10 listed here. Ranks 7th in WAR among St. Louis position players during the DeWitt Era.

13. David Freese: was elected to the Cards Hall of Fame but politely declined the honor. He’ll accept one day. The Cardinals don’t win the 2011 World Series without his incredible postseason and the unforgettable World Series Game 6.

14. Jason Isringhausen. Holds the Cardinals’ franchise record for career saves. Member of the team Hall of Fame. On my “best relievers” list written earlier in this series of rankings, I put Trevor Rosenthal ahead of Izzy, based on pure dominance. But Izzy has the saves record and the Hall of Fame red jacket, and the more distinguished career.

15. Jeff Suppan: This crafty starting pitcher came up extra-large for the Cards in the 2004 and 2006 postseasons.


16. Darryl Kile, starting pitcher. Still revered for his leadership. He’ll never be forgotten.

17. David Eckstein, shortstop. World Series MVP in 2006.

18. Paul Goldschmidt, first base. One of the best and most respected players of his time.

19. Trevor Rosenthal, closer. Highest strikeout rate in franchise history.

20. Carlos Beltran: the de facto replacement for Pujols after Pujols left as a free agent. Beltran was terrific for the Cardinals in 2012 and 2013.

21: Jason Motte, who was a superb closer for the 2011 World Series champs.

22. Woody Williams, starting pitcher. Reliable. Helped them win in 2001, 2002, 2004.

23. Jon Jay. Center fielder who was a “glue” guy. I didn’t appreciate him as much as I should have. A winning player. Teammates loved him. Among Cardinals who were continuously on the team from 2010 through 2015, only Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter had more WAR than Jay. And those teams did a lot of winning.

24. Nolan Arenado. He’s still building his Cardinal career and will undoubtedly move up. I also want to see how it goes in 2024. But if you think he should be higher in these rankings I won’t push back.

25. Tommy Edman: During the DeWitt Era he’s 12th among position players in WAR.

26. Steve Kline: best lefty reliever of the DeWitt Era.

27. Brian Jordan. The outfielder had abundant talent.

28. J.D. Drew: an enigma … but an awfully talented enigma.

29. Lance Lynn: welcome home, big man.

30. Larry Walker: It was great to have the future Hall of Famer play for the Cardinals for 1 and ½ seasons in 2004 and ‘05.

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.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible. Baseball Prospectus, Bill James Online or Sports Info Solutions 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.