Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Cardinals’ Locker Room Is Full of Seasoned Stars

PHOENIX ( Associated Press) — The visiting clubhouse at Chase Field, Arizona, has two lockers larger than the rest, and they’re reserved for veteran stars who’ve earned a little extra stretching space.

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the few teams that has many players with that profile.

Those big places were assigned to Albert Pujol and Yadier Molina, and who could argue with them? Both the legendary superstars are in their 40s and nearing the end of their Hall of Fame careers.

But the player with the smallest locker, along with rookie and others, has an almost equally impressive track record: Right-hander Adam Wainwright has 193 wins and three career All-Star Games. Paul Goldschmidt, 34, one of the first basemen in baseball, is a seven-time All-Star and MVP candidate for his current season.

On his side was 31-year-old Nolan Arenado, third baseman, who appeared in seven All-Star Games and won nine Gold Gloves.

It is a group of highly experienced players that made the most of manager Oliver Marmol’s first season, who at 36 years old is younger than many experienced players.

“One thing this organization has done well is to have players who share what it means to win,” Marmol said. “That’s what it takes to win. There’s no group stronger than that.”

Here’s the bottom line: The quintet of veteran stars isn’t just a showpiece for the team. They are producing at a high level, which has propelled the Cardinals to first place in the NL Central.

They had a five-game lead over the Brewers going into Monday’s games.

The Dominican has been reincarnated at the age of 42. His batting average of .442, seven home runs and 17 has been produced in the past month.

Suddenly, the three-time MVP is aiming for the 700 home run mark—he’s 692 now and with 40 games left in the regular season, which he says will be his last.

Even in the opponents’ ballpark, Pujols are treated like baseball royalty. The Chase Field crowd gave Pujol a standing ovation ahead of his batting debut in three matches of his most recent weekend series.

Don’t get carried away with all the attention. He scored two home runs in a 4-for-4 day on Saturday, but didn’t complain when Marmole took him out of the game—two decades his junior—for bringing in a pinch hitter.

When Gorman singled out, no one reacted more happy than Pujols.

“It’s not about one player, it’s about the 26 who are on the roster,” Pujols said. “I think when you have a large group of players, it becomes easier to enjoy your job. We are playing very good ball.”

Wainwright turns 41 this month and has made remarkable appearances in the middle of the rotation, going 9-8 with a 3.11 ERA. At 40, Molina isn’t producing as aggressively as he used to, but he has had his moments, such as Friday’s three-hit game against the Diamondbacks.

There’s also Goldschmidt and Arenado, two stars at the height of their careers. Goldschmidt is probably having his best season – the calm first baseman leads the Major with a .340 batting average, in addition to accumulating 34 doubles, 31 home runs and 100 RBIs.

Arenado has been equally excellent, hitting .299 with 25 home runs and 81 RBI.

His consistency has allowed St. Louis to climb to the top of his division, going 15-3 in August.

Goldschmidt argues that this has not been easy, although these cardinals sometimes reflect that way.

“The hardest thing is getting on the days when you’re not in your best shape, and trying to figure out how to respond,” Goldschmidt said. “That’s my ultimate goal – to be consistent. We have to play every day and it’s tough, with ups and downs.

What Goldschmidt enjoys the most is praising Pujols. Like any other fan.

“What he does is be super human,” Goldschmidt said. “It’s amazing”.

Nation World News Desk
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