Everything Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina said about looming retirement

Now that the St. Louis Cardinals season is over, here’s what Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina had to say about their careers coming to an end. 

The postseason for the St. Louis Cardinals came to a sudden end on a chilly Saturday night at Busch Stadium. With the Wild Card loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, it wasn’t just the end of the season for the Cardinals, but also the ending of the careers of two franchise icons — Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols.

Inside the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse following Saturday’s 2-0 loss, players hugged each other and shared their anguish over bowing out of the postseason so quickly. Much of the attention eventually turned to Pujols and Molina, with players spending individual moments with the two future Hall of Famers, thanking them for what they had meant to the team this season and the franchise during their long and storied careers.

“Albert said it best, ‘I’d take our team against theirs any day of the week,” Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar shared. “Unfortunately these past few days, it just didn’t go our way.”

Nootbaar said the loss hurt in a deeper way because it was the end of the road for Pujols and Molina.

“It makes it sting even more,” Nootbaar said. “Those are the guys you want to impress and that you look up to. Those are the guys you don’t want to disappoint so, as a younger guy, it pains me.”

With those words, Nootbaar started to show some emotion, lending credence to just how much Pujols and Molina have meant to a team that blended youth and experience this season on their way to winning the National League Central.

“It’s unfortunate. Everybody in that clubhouse is feeling it right now. It’s a tough one,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “When you know it’s Yadi’s last year and Albert’s last year, there’s this extra motivation to deliver for them and do something special and allow that story to end with a championship. So it’s obviously disappointing, but it’s where we’re at.”

Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina both ride into the sunset together

In Saturday’s loss, both Pujols, who debuted in 2001, and Molina, who debuted in 2004, would single in their final at-bat, and both would be lifted for a pinch runner as the Cardinals tried to rally. The identical endings was a fitting way for the duo to go out after being linked so closely to each other throughout their careers and especially this season, knowing it would be the final one for each of them.

“I’m going to have a brother forever,” Molina said of Pujols. “It was a great season, a great season for everyone here in the clubhouse. All of the moments and memories, Albert was fun to watch come back and do his thing.”

That “thing” included crossing the 700-homer mark and go 2-for-4 in his final postseason game.

“Wearing a uniform in the big leagues for 23 years, I’m really proud,” Pujols said. “I’ve enjoyed every single moment. There’s no regret.”

Pujols agreed that he and Molina would be “brothers” because of the relationship they have built with each other through the years.

“The Lord allows those doors to be open and to have a great relationship,” Pujols said. “I can say that, for 23 years, I have felt some great relationships in this game and I am thankful to God for giving me this opportunity.”

Pujols said that the sudden loss in the postseason would take some time to process, just like the fact that he has played his last game.

“I think it’s something that it won’t even be this week. I think it may take a couple of months to realize what a great team we had this year,” Pujols said. “My main goal was always to help this team win every day, whether I was in the lineup or on the bench.”

Pujols said it was “being around the guys” that he would miss the most, and Molina agreed.

“To be in this clubhouse, fighting to win games,” Molina said.

And when will Molina know that he’s comfortable with the decision to walk away from the game that he loves?

“I don’t know,” Molina smiled. “I’m going to go day by day and see how things play out.”

One thing Molina does know, however, is that St. Louis will now turn to a new generation of leaders, including MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in the clubhouse as he and Pujols bid farewell to baseball.

“They have great leaders here,” Molina said. “Those guys, they’re really pros. We have some good, talented ball players here. They’re going to be in this situation for many years. Hopefully they can win, but man, this group is amazing.”

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