ST. LOUIS — Every day that passes, the chances of Yadier Molina finishing his career in St. Louis dwindle.
Like it or not, he isn't going to wait until Christmas to find a new home. Molina has every right to seek out the best contract. Hall of Fame catchers do that, and a pandemic doesn't change it. It's written nowhere that players must give hometown discounts and accept what others think they are owed. Molina has some fight left, and wants to win World Series ring no. 3. As Heath Ledger's Joker once said, "if you are good at something, never do it for free."
Today, it was reported that the New York Yankees and Mets both have shown interest in Molina's talents. Now on the surface, that means very little. For instance, I have shown interest in buying some prime real estate in Lake Como, but I doubt a move out of Princeton Heights is in order for the Buffa family.
Molina posted on Instagram detailing how he and his brothers have won rings in Anaheim, New York and St. Louis. Right off the bat, I think it's mostly nothing. Everyone is reflecting right now, and showing off your family's baseball savviness isn't illegal. How many brother tandems have accomplished what the Molinas have? The answer is none.
On second thought, he could be doing that "Yadi Thing" where he stirs the pot just a little. Is he saying that a reunion in Los Angeles with Albert Pujols is in order? Will he try to be like Jose and win one in pinstripes? Right now, nobody but Molina knows much about that. There's a fine chance he is simply bored.
Let's face it. If he leaves St. Louis, it will be a baseball tragedy. Dry your eyes or cover them, because this is the truth. If he takes his talents elsewhere, it'll be a bruising loss. You can make a case for Andrew Knizner filling in nicely in 2021, but there's something bigger taking place here. Molina is a once-in-a-long-while kind of talent, and keeping him in St. Louis helps both on the field and off. If you want to see fans boycott Busch Stadium - or at least a good amount - let Molina walk.
With each passing day that expires, it's becoming more of a possibility.
The Cardinals have to know what the financial picture of 2021 looks like to an extent. Whether it's good or bad news, they have a good idea. It's their decision-making process-where they put the money in payroll-that has drawn a lot of criticism recently. But their biggest decision in a quiet offseason may be whether to pay Molina, or let him take a contract with another team.
Believe me when I tell you, another team will sign Molina. The Yankees have the money. So do the Mets. Pandemic or not, they know Molina means dollar bills coming in and more milestones to promote and benefit from. Deny it. Resist the idea. Do whatever. He'll play in 2021.
Just remember this. It won't be easy or feel good at first, but I find it to be paramount. If Molina does depart, absolutely nothing changes about his legacy in St. Louis. Nothing at all. He will still retire with a Cardinals hat on. He will still be a king in this city. The legend will endure. As a friend of mine, 590 The Fan board operator Matt Grover noted this summer, players leave cities all the time and nothing changes.
Michael Jordan left Chicago and still wears a crown on his head there. Wayne Gretzky left Edmonton and Los Angeles, but those highlights and great nights didn't evaporate the second he left town. Look at Pujols. St. Louis got the best 11 years of his career. He will go into the HOF as a Cardinal. He has a home and charity foundations here. I am not comparing the Cardinals' long time catcher to those players, just stating how a legacy doesn't break when a jersey is hung up. Molina won't scorch the Earth upon leaving, but there will be anger and distrust. After all, it's a business. And business school persuades one to leave their heart at the door.
Just know Molina's work and legend here doesn't change if he leaves. It'll feel like hot coals going down your throat, piercing the heart and sending some fans downtown to try and push The Gateway Arch into The Mississippi River. But at the end of the day, (which is one of John Mozeliak's favorite quotes), Molina's hours and innings caught under the lights at Busch Stadium remain true. The 2006 playoff heroics remain in place. The 2011 World Series collision between Molina and Jason Motte doesn't disappear. The good times in red won't die. It'll look different for sure, but the memories will endure.
Will that happen? I'd still bet Molina suits up for St. Louis in 2021, but the odds are shifting and the sure feeling is diminishing with each week that passes. We shall see is the right mindset as 2020 finally enters its home stretch.
Will Yadi finish it out in St. Louis? The answer may be unknown right now, but the legacy is the polar opposite. It'll stay intact long after he leaves.