ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina saw the ways that the careers of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and David Ortiz ended. They got farewell tours, announcing ahead of their final season that they planned to retire. They received gifts, recognitions, cheers and jeers as they made their last voyage through a 162-game season.
Molina wants some of that -- and one aspect in particular.
“I was thinking about going to Cincinnati and hearing all the boos there, going to Chicago, hearing all the boos there. It’s going to be awesome,” Molina said. “It’s going to be a great time going there and getting the boos.”
That’s the path Molina has set forward for himself, announcing prior to Wednesday’s game against the Tigers that he’ll retire at the end of the 2022 season. Molina will conclude what will be a 19-year career -- all with St. Louis -- at the end of a one-year, $10 million contract extension that he signed on Tuesday.
Why is 2022 the year Molina has decided to call his final one, putting to rest what will be at least 10 All-Star appearances, nine Gold Gloves, four Platinum Gloves, two World Series titles and a Silver Slugger?
“Well, it's enough,” Molina laughed. “I mean, 19 years is a long career, and my position is a tough one. Right now, I would like to do my best, and I'm going to train my body hard, but it's hard to keep up with this game to a high level right now when you’re 39.”
If Molina has his wishes even further, each of those accolades and accomplishments will increase by one. Especially the number of titles.
“I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be able to finish strong next year, and try to bring the trophy back to St. Louis this year and next year,” Molina said. “That would be great, winning [the World Series] back-to-back years and [finishing] on a winning season.”
There was little doubt where Molina wanted to end his career, saying last offseason -- his first as a free agent -- that he wanted to avoid free agency this winter at all costs. His desire was to return to St. Louis, and he wanted to lock something up early.
President of baseball operations John Mozeliak said this was the “oddest negotiation he’s ever been a part of” sitting across from Molina -- a “treasure, this person that's been iconic” -- and trying to hash out one more year together.
The process started a month and a half ago, and pen was swiftly put to paper to allow the Cardinals’ legacy player one more trip around the league.
“Anybody that's been a part of the Cardinals in the last 20 years, you should consider yourself lucky because you've got to be a part of this man's career,” Mozeliak said.
Molina’s 19th season will almost assuredly wrap up a Hall of Fame-bound resumé that likely doesn’t need any more padding. At the very least, it needs none in St. Louis, where a number retirement and entrance into the club’s Hall of Fame on Clark Avenue are as expected as the Clydesdales on Opening Day.
Molina wants to stay involved as a Cardinal legend past his playing time.
“I can't wait to put a red jacket on,” Molina said. “It’s been 21 years being part of this organization, and being witness of how they take care of the legends in this organization is great. I want to do that too. When you have guys like Lou Brock, Red [Schoendienst], all those guys -- rest in peace -- you feel like you want to be part of that, what they leave after baseball, after their careers. You think about wanting to be part of that, and want to come over here and experience the moment and the games over here when you retire. We are looking forward to doing that.”
Last on Molina’s checklist? Bring back Adam Wainwright, who has said he’s weighing if he wants to return for one more go-around. Wainwright lobbied for Molina to return all last offseason with daily texts and calls. One more year together would likely solidify the Molina-Wainwright battery as the longest in baseball history, set to hit 300 starts before the 2021 season concludes.
“Now it's my turn to do that, my turn to call him every day,” Molina said.
Molina will also be plotting out which stadiums he thinks he might get the most boos at, teams he’s tortured over his Hall of Fame-caliber career. Chicago and Cincinnati are a given, and probably New York, where Molina helped close out the 2006 National League Championship Series.
There’s also the Cardinals’ Interleague opponents, which next come from the AL East and include trips to Boston -- another World Series foe -- Toronto and St. Petersburg.
Boos, appreciations, last trips to the Green Monster -- Molina will take it all with his pearly-white smile.
“Hopefully the people respond to that for me, and it would be great for me,” Molina said. “It would be awesome. We would be appreciative for that.”