By now, St. Louis Cardinals fans should know a few things are certain in this life: death, taxes, the sun rising and setting, and Yadier Molina starting every day.
For years, Cardinal Nation has fought tooth and nail over the idea of the Hall of Fame bound catcher needing or getting the rest that other catchers receive. They simply fail to realize that Molina isn't every other catcher in baseball. He's a unique asset who wants to play and should until there's a real need to sit him down.
The argument over how hard Molina runs to first base comes in second place to this annoyingly useless conversation.
I'll let you in on a little secret, ladies and gents. Yadier Molina should start every day for this team, because they need him in more ways than one. While Francisco Pena isn't a bad backup plan, he is nowhere near as good as Molina on either side of the ball. He can't hit like him or give the pitching staff half of the plan of attack Molina brings to the table.
In case you haven't been checking the standings, the Cardinals are fighting for positioning in the wildcard and division races, so there are no games to spare. Perhaps if the front office didn't wait so long to reset the roster and management team down below, Molina could get a few more rest days. With the way it's currently playing out, Molina has to play.
There are numbers to back it up. Molina's slash line of .288/.335/.471 and 117 OPS+ are his best since 2013. He has 15 home runs and 17 doubles in just 340 at-bats, with only 50 strikeouts. He makes contact often and is driving the ball with authority. Here is a guy who can hit high in the order or be dropped into the middle for RBI opportunities.
The defense may not be gold glove territory anymore, but Molina still shuts down the running game. Runners think twice before stealing, making just 28 attempts on Molina this season. The 67% success rate isn't glamorous but think about it. All of the baserunners this year, and they haven't even tried 30 times to steal a base. Last year, opposing runners made 67 attempts. The year before, in 2016, they made 85 attempts. By the way, Molina isn't aging backwards like Benjamin Button. He's 36 years old.
That's the thing. Common thinking in sports is that an athlete's performance deteriorates with time but that's just not true with Molina. He's started 1,741 games behind home plate and caught 15,117 innings, but refuses to slow down. If it's not broke, don't fix it. If it's not leaking, leave it alone. Starting Pena or Carson Kelly would be a disservice to the team right now. It's simply not required.
If the Cardinals would like to win, Molina needs to start. Nothing can stop him. A 100+ mph fastball to the private sector couldn't even deter Molina. Instead of lying on the ground bawling like a baby, which is what I would have done, Molina came back early from what the doctors predicted, and didn't miss a beat. He's like the Tom Cruise of baseball. Age isn't just a state of mind; it's a challenge.
Normally, I'd vouch for some rest, even for Matt Carpenter. The thing with Molina is simple: he's not normal. Molina's effect on a baseball game is unique, because it stretches from the lineup to the pitching mound before making its way back to the dugout. The young arms need him to grow, and the veteran limbs are searching for magic stored in #4's brain. Rest someone else. Yadier Molina will rest when he's retired.
In the meantime, let's retire the "rest Molina" conversation. It's getting old, unlike the catcher's game.
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