Yadier Molina / MLB Network Capture
Puerto Rican receiver Yadier Molina is the charm, the cornerstone of the team that perhaps deserves the nickname of being the most competitive in the National League so far in the 21st century.
Molina and pitcher Adam Wainwright are the most experienced players on the St. Louis Cardinals roster. They formed drums in the 2006 World Series, won by the Red Birds. And again they were protagonists in the chain of 17 successive victories of the winged ones, the one that assured them their pass to the MLB playoffs.
It will be the twelfth time in 18 championships that the Bayamon-born catcher will be part of the decisive action in October. And that is the greatest proof of efficiency that a player of his position can offer.
Today Molina is still the main representative of that unusual export from Puerto Rico, which has done better in catching the Big Show.
He is part of a family dynasty, with his brothers Bengie and José, all of reputed defensive work. He is the heir to a line that already has Iván Rodríguez in the Hall of Fame, and which includes names such as Jorge Posada and Martín Maldonado.
And now he is climbing toward a task that begins to seem possible: to conquer a third ring of champion in the majors.
The Cardinals had a mediocre record of 71-69 on Sept. 11. They were barely over .500 and their place in the playoffs was nothing more than a wild gamble.
But those who decided to put their money in the San Luis box that day have collected real loot. Mike Shildt’s troop triumphed in 18 of the next 19 games, including this Thursday. It’s the hottest team in baseball.
“We feel dangerous,” Wainwright said in full celebration on Tuesday, according to The Associated Presss.
Molina is not the one who announces the most danger, with his leisurely presence on the field. Because his thing is to intelligently lead the orchestra that changed the history of the Central division in 2021.
He hasn’t hit much. With a .254 average and 11 home runs, he has an adjusted OPS below the Big Carp average, at just 87.
But management didn’t bring him back from free agency for extra-base hits and slugging. Molina’s job is to drive the pitching, and his pitchers have shone again. Two months ago they were below the Major League average and have improved to a 3.97 team ERA.
He is still a smart leader for his staff. Possibly the most seasoned receiver in MLB today.
His physical conditions have not diminished, despite a pain in his shoulder that he has in reserve, with a view to the wildcard duel.
Although for four tournaments it has not been an obvious danger with the wood, with the arm it is still lethal. He has put out 42 percent of the rivals who have tried to steal a base from him in 2021. He disputes the leadership of the Nacional with the Venezuelan Elías Díaz. By comparison, the overall rate for your colleagues is 25 percent. He almost doubles that record.
His defense has grown with age. It is a nonsense that has measurable evidence. His defensive WAR, according to Baseball Reference accounts, is his best in more than five years. Only with the implements in place he has 1.5, compared to that 1.8 in 2015, when he was 32 years old.
Molina is now 39. He just turned them on July 13. In August he received an extension of his contract until 2022. After that, he will hang up the spikes.
“Yes, yes, it will be my last season”, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other means, when that news was known. “I want to end up here, in this great organization.”
You are in the right place. The red birds appreciate like few others the contribution of a player who perfectly complies with the fundamentals, like him.
It’s a charm for a successful squad, but it’s also a guarantee behind home plate. And now he has the challenge and the possibility of winning another World Series, before that day, already near, when he will say goodbye.