Yadier Molina took a baseball off his groin on May 5 of this past season. He came back on June 5. Sunday night, the St. Louis Cardinals catcher won his ninth Gold Glove as Rawlings handed out the National League awards.
As disappointment rained down in St. Louis over the snub of Kolten Wong at second base (he lost out to Colorado's D.J. LeMahieu), the elation quickly set in with Molina's win, his first in three seasons after winning eight in a row.
Many question the Gold Glove award, and for good reason. Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took one home last year, and then proceeded to look clueless in left field for much of the 2018 season for St. Louis. Part of that can be chalked up to a bum shoulder, but when you are spinning circles in left field over a routine fly ball, something is wrong.
Harrison Bader didn't even crack the finalists this year despite leading the league in several sabermetric categories, including defensive runs saved and StatCast valued difficult catch ratio. He was a stud, but due to a lack of innings in center field or narrow-minded thought, he was left off.
When it comes to Molina, longevity and consistency play a big part. After all, the catcher position is still the hardest one to properly analyze with numbers. There's caught stealing, but that has more to do with a pitcher's speed to the plate than a catcher's arm. There's popup speed and miles-per-hour on the arm, but that doesn't tell the whole story. There's more to it. A unique value that needs extra digging.
Speaking of unique, that's Molina. He doesn't slow down and still doesn't understand Father Time and its rules. By now, he would have missed two months with that terrible injury in May and averaged around 100 games. After all, Buster Posey will see more time at first base as his career moves on, as will other catchers. Molina just keeps on trucking forward, dismissing backups and putting Carson Kelly in a growth cage.
It's true that managers and coaches make up a healthy portion of the final vote for Gold Gloves, which makes sense. They see these men work every day and can tell you who makes the biggest impact. Rival coaches know how valuable Molina is when they see him out there coaxing genius from middle of the road arms or inexperienced rookies. It happens every year with Molina and the pitching staff.
In the end, you can't put a WAR-type stat on Molina's work on the field. He redefines the word "excellence" in catching, which will set the bar very high for whoever wants to take that mantle moving forward. According to Rawlings, that mantle still sits in St. Louis.
This ninth win further cements Molina's Hall of Fame credentials. Along with the World Series wins and resurgent hitting ability, the club is small when it comes to catchers with nine Gold Gloves. If there was a Brian Kenny-fueled debate this past summer, the conversation just tilted in Molina's corner tonight on a cold rainy night in St. Louis.
Player hardship and perseverance are a big deal when it comes to the catcher position. Few crack the toughness of the position over a 15-year career. Molina edges closer to immortality with each award and year of success. He's one of a kind. A Cardinal for life. A player that requires zero embellishment.
That's a special thing, and guess what? It's far from over. Molina stated he would retire after his contract expires after the 2020 season, but what if he wins another two Gold Gloves and has Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez in his sights?
If anyone can play forever, it's Yadier Molina. May 5 proved that point.