Over the past few days, baseball Twitter has been abuzz with debate on a singular issue: Is Yadier Molina a future baseball hall of famer?
MLB Network’s Brian Kenny touched off the debate after responding to a comment from fellow network host Harold Reynolds. Kenny, a noted proponent of analytics, also conducted a poll among Twitter users debating Molina’s Hall-of-Fame worth. At its close, the poll received nearly 20,000 votes, with 73 percent of voters favoring Molina.
It’s time to end this debate here and now. Yadier Molina deserves to be and will be a hall of famer.
If you’re measuring Yadi up against the average offensive numbers of all the current members of the hall of fame, it doesn’t look good. However, you can’t look at him like that. He’s not a first baseman or an outfielder. He’s a catcher. And, like shortstop, a special set of circumstances is needed.
I’m likely not telling any of you here in St. Louis anything you don’t already know. We’ve seen Yadi’s career firsthand and know he’s a hall of famer. Here’s some ammo to use in debates with those who aren’t so enlightened to Molina’s greatness though, just in case.
- Yadi is an all-time great defensive catcher
Let’s throw all the offensive debates out the window right now. Yadier Molina is the greatest defensive catcher of his generation, and probably one of the top-three defensive catchers all-time. The only two catchers with more Gold Gloves than Yadi are hall of famers Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez.
His ability to completely shut down a running game is legendary. Since Molina became a Cardinal the team has ranked firmly in the bottom third of teams in stolen bases attempted against. Other teams just stopped trying to steal with Yadi behind the plate. Who knows how many runs simply that reputation has saved?
His ability to call a game and work with a pitching staff is also something that gets overlooked by statistics. He guided two rag-tag rotations to World Series championships and there is a large gap between pitcher ERA with Yadi, and pitcher ERA with a backup. His caught-stealing percentage and catcher-ERA numbers are also historically good. Ozzie Smith’s offensive stats are not why he is in the Hall of Fame. He was a generational, defensive wizard who impacted the game as much in the field as some players do at the plate. The same can be said of Molina, who will someday join him in Cooperstown.
- The standard for hall of fame catchers is ludicrous
Catchers are criminally underrepresented in the hall of fame. There are currently only 18. The only position with less inductees is third base. The standards have been incredibly high for backstops.
Johnny Bench, Ivan Rodriguez and Yogi Berra are often seen as the gold standard of catchers. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean anyone that doesn’t have a resume like theirs should be excluded from the hall. This same line of thinking is what has kept the underappreciated Ted Simmons out of Cooperstown for so long.
By the time he retires Molina will likely be top-ten in games caught, hits, doubles and perhaps even batting average for a catcher. Those offensive ranks all-time at his position coupled with his defensive prowess should make him a shoe-in for induction, regardless of the intangibles. And if he plays out his current contract he will have done this all consistently for 17 seasons. That counts for something as well.
- Yadi has the “moments”
Whenever a big Hall-of-Fame debate heats up, the numbers are certainly discussed, but so are the big moments of the players’ career. Molina has those moments. Yadi has been a postseason staple since coming to the bigs in 2004.
His 2006 NLCS game seven go-ahead home run in the ninth inning against the Mets was historic at the time. It was only the fifth go-ahead bomb in the ninth inning or later of a winner-take-all postseason game.
He caught game five of the 2011 NLDS against the Phillies, which was one of the greatest pitching duels in postseason history.
Molina has played in the World Series four times, winning two and etching himself in history with both final outs (although he didn’t catch the last out in 2011, his jump into Jason Motte’s arms is what we remember).
Yadi is a .286 career postseason hitter and has driven in 31 runs in his nine years in the postseason. The guy is clutch when it counts with the bat and the glove. He’s also now a nine-time all-star and is hitting .625 in the midsummer classic with a home run.
I said this at the beginning, but we here in St. Louis have known we’ve been watching a hall of famer for Yadi’s entire career. I know if you asked every single teammate and coach he’s ever had if he was worthy of induction, they’d think the same.
It’s good that the baseball hall of fame is exclusive. We are talking about the best to ever do something after all. I do think there comes a point though where we need to pull ourselves out of the bog that is statistics and sabermetrics and look at what is right in front of us.
Yadier Molina is a generational defensive talent at the toughest position on the field who has consistently performed for 15 years and will have career numbers in the upper echelon of players at his position when he retires. He has been a postseason constant who shows up in the big moments.
If that’s not a Hall of Famer, I’m not really sure what is.
Critics can continue to pick and choose convenient stats to help their narratives, but that doesn’t do Yadi’s career justice. It might take him a few years after he’s eligible, but I guarantee you we’ll see Yadier Molina in his rightful place in Cooperstown someday.