5 Cardinals to hate-watch this MLB postseason

5 Cardinals to hate-watch this MLB postseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

For the first time since 2019, Chicago will not be represented in the MLB playoffs. To make matters worse, the closest teams for Cubs and White Sox fans to rally behind in October? The St. Louis Cardinals … yeah, don’t hold your breath.

If you’re one of those Chicago baseball fans who can’t stomach rooting for the Cards, but also can’t seem to tear yourself away from MLB playoffs, what better coping mechanism than to simply hate-watch. We’ve got a guide for five players to keep an eye out as the Cardinals head into their wild card series with Philadelphia.

Without further ado, pull up a seat and try to keep your head shaking to a minimum as you begrudgingly watch the Cardinals take on the Phillies. If you’re lucky, it’ll be over in a quick two-game sweep.

1. Albert Pujols

It would be criminal to start this list in any other way. Pujols is arguably one of the greatest players in franchise history. (That outright title belongs to Stan the Man.)

His accolades speak for themselves -- 11-time All Star, 3-time National League MVP and fourth all-time in career home runs (703). No fanbase knows the damage he can inflict on the ball better than the Chicago Cubs, who spent the better part of the early 2000s falling victim to the Dominican-born first baseman.

Cubs fans finally got some respite when Pujols went to Los Angeles for a decade, primarily spent with the Angels. He returned to St. Louis this season for a farewell tour which proved far more than formalities. In addition to passing Alex Rodriguez on the career home run list, Pujols recently passed Babe Ruth for RBIs, trailing only Hank Aaron.

Whether you’re celebrating or lamenting the fact that Pujols’ time in the MLB is winding down, you won’t want to miss whatever at-bats he has left.

2. Paul Goldschmidt

If it weren’t for Pujols and a guy by the name of Aaron Judge, Goldschmidt would be all the rage this season.

Until a few weeks ago, the 35-year-old was mounting a quiet bid for the triple crown. He remains in the top-five in all three categories (batting average, home runs and RBIs) and has continued to be a stronghold along the first baseline.

Goldschmidt seemingly only gets better with age. Locked down with the Cardinals for at least another two years, he’s the pure blood-boiling type of player that every Chicago fan needs to remember their hatred for the Cards.

3. Nolan Arenado

Arenado might not be the stat stuffer that Goldschmidt or Pujols are but he is a certified star. Since joining the league in 2013, the third baseman has won nine-straight Gold Glove awards and been named to seven All-Star games.

The 31-year-old has earned himself a bit of a reputation for charging the mound and even missed two games this season for “contributing to the incitement” of a bench-clearing brawl between the Cardinals and the New York Mets.

Arenado isn’t even halfway through an eight-year contract he signed with the Colorado Rockies back in 2019, so expect him to make a lot more trips to Chicago.

4. Yadier Molina

The final Molina brother is ready to take his bow.

A Cardinals lifer, Molina, arrived in St. Louis in 2004 after several years in the minor leagues.

His breakout moment, however, came in 2006 when some strategic play calling on the part of Molina and effective pitching by then-rookie closer Adam Wainwright, lifted the Cardinals to the World Series over the New York Mets. St. Louis went on to win its first World Series since 1982.

Retirement has been in the works for Molina for some time now. He announced last August that 2022 would be his last season and he now finds himself going out with Pujols and potentially Wainwright, who has yet to confirm his plans for next year.

Molina’s retirement plans? Managing the Navegantes del Magallanes, the defending champions of the eight-team Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. Don’t be surprised if Molina pops up in an MLB dugout in the near future.

5. Tommy Edman

Now for a player south of 30 years old.

Edman is the epitome of a pesky, grind-it-out player that makes you love him if he’s on your team and hate him if you’re up against him. The 27-year-old is most known for stealing bases -- 31 of them exactly this season, good for fifth in the National League.

As a true utility player, he gives the Cardinals numerous options and can inject energy into any lineup. Despite being surrounded by legends, Edman is putting the league on notice and is a serious contender to win the MLB’s first ever Gold Glove awarded to utility players.