There's a clear choice between Pujols and Molina as the Cardinals' next manager

With a St. Louis Cardinals managing spot potentially opening up next season or in 2025, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina could both look to land the role. But one candidate outshines the other in a critical facet of the job.

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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Oliver Marmol is on the hot seat, according to an article in The Athletic (paid subscription required). This shouldn't come as a surprise to fans of the St. Louis Cardinals after the team's awful season in 2023, but with Marmol's contract set to expire after 2024 and the announcement that two all-time Cardinals greats are looking to blaze their own managing trails, it's logical to wonder if there will be a competition between two legends for a potential Cardinals managing opportunity.

On Feb. 21, Albert Pujols was named the manager of Los Leones del Escogido, a baseball team in the Dominican Winter League. Pujols expressed interest in returning to baseball at some point after his retirement, and this job could be a stepping stone for Pujols to eventually find a major league role as a skipper.

But Pujols is not the only former Cardinal who is showing a desire to manage a team. Yadier Molina has already managed Puerto Rico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic and Criollos de Caguas in the Caribbean League in 2024, and he was hired as a special assistant to John Mozeliak prior to the 2024 season.

If the decision were to come down to Pujols and Molina to take the reins of one of baseball's most storied franchises, the job should go to Pujols. This isn't so much because of how they would fare in games — both Molina and Pujols possess deep knowledge of the game and would surely earn respect from the players — but how they deal with the media.

Fans who watched interviews with Molina in his playing days could tell that he was not a fan of the media, and answering media questions before and after games is a significant part of a manager's job. Reporters will want to know the latest information about injuries and will question managers on why they made certain decisions in a game. If interviews are any indication, Molina would not take kindly to being grilled over his choices in games, nor would he be a fan of receiving probing questions about his players.

Pujols was not abrasive with media in his historically productive time with the Cardinals from 2001 to 2011, but he preferred to stay out of the limelight. His approach changed in his return to the team in 2022, as he was more open with the media and answered questions while displaying an ability to connect with and provide valuable insight to teammates.

The importance of managers' communication with reporters shouldn't go overlooked. Former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was prickly toward the media, and his comments in interviews contributed to his widespread disdain from Cardinals fans. The last things the Cardinals and their fans want is for Molina to become vilified because he was testy and uncooperative with the media.

Molina has not had to interact with the media too often in his time managing overseas, so he might be in for a shock if he were to manage in the major leagues. But because he seems to possess the intangibles required to guide a team, he would be a strong fit for the position of bench coach, where he could help the players while mostly avoiding media scrutiny.

A Cardinals team managed by Pujols and complemented by Molina as a bench coach could become a World Series contender, and although Molina might not jump at the thought of being second in command, it seems to be the ideal spot for him.

Fans shouldn't attempt to usher Marmol out of the door, but if the team decides not to renew his contract or if Marmol is fired midseason, the Cardinals could see two of the team's greatest alumni battling for his vacant spot. For the sake of healthy communication and transparency between the Cardinals, the media, and fans, Pujols should be the one who lands the gig.

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