Think about it. How many 36-year-old catchers do you know of that can hit 18 home runs and still get booed in nearly every stadium they go to? How many people can you think of that could take a 102 mile-per-hour fastball to the nuts, nearly bust a ball, and walk off the field? How many times have we heard the words “mind-reader” and “soul-seer” when players, both on the team and opposing, try to describe what Yadier Molina can do?
In many ways, it seems that Yadier Molina’s abilities are inhumane. No, he cannot make himself invisible, fly, or (as observed many times) run very fast. However, there are many things that Yadier Molina can do that the average human being cannot. One example of this is simply the length of his career at one of the toughest, most physically demanding positions in professional sports. 2018 is Yadi’s 15th year behind the plate, and if not for the gruesome injury in May that sidelined him for 4 weeks, Yadi might be leading all catchers in innings-caught again…and he is 7 years older than the next oldest person ahead of him in this category. Some would say that this only indicates that Yadi is very durable, which is also correct, but it doesn’t stop there.
On top of catching so many innings, Yadi has provided offensive power the last two seasons that the Cardinals have not seen from him since his prime. This begs the question: did Yadi ever truly hit a prime, or is he still in it? Before you say that statement was ridiculously biased, hear me out. Molina hit over .300 for 3 straight season (2011-2013) and for those who don’t remember, had such a great first half in 2014 that he was named the All-Star Game starting catcher. Unfortunately, the weekend before the ASG, Yadi tore the ligament in his right thumb and had to have a surgery that took him out for 6 weeks. In the 2015 season, a similar injury afflicted Yadi, but this time it was his left thumb that received the “partial” ligament tear. Despite suffering such an injury (normally he would’ve had surgery again), Molina refused to let it keep him out of the postseason.
Why am I bringing all of this stuff up that you probably already know about? Here’s why: after having two surgeries to repair his thumb in the 2015-16 offseason, Yadi hit over .300 again in 2016. In 2017, he got his power back, hitting 18 home runs, which is equal the amount he has now with 9 games left. The only time that Yadier Molina has hit over 20 home runs was in 2012 when he hit 22, arguably the best season of his career. He has already hit more home runs than he did in either 2011 or 2013. Either Yadi is just lucky or age really has no effect on him, though, considering the workhorse that he is, the answer is leaning towards the latter.
That’s one thing about Yadi that appears to be inhumane: agelessness. The next superhuman quality that Yadier Molina brings to the table is his so-called “mind-reading” abilities. This phrase was first coined to describe Yadi by Shelby Miller in 2014. Okay, so Yadi cannot actually read minds, but he definitely makes it seem like he can. The credit for this is attributed mostly to his hard work and dedication to winning. Yadi always has a plan and is always searching for different ways to win a game, which is how it can appear that Yadi can read minds. His quick baseball knowledge and his analysis of every aspect of the game can calculate things like whether or not he can pick off the runner, and his mind does this in milliseconds. As fans caught in the moment of the excitement Yadi brings, we sometimes fail to notice his genius too.
Mind-reading, agelessness…both qualities are enough to at least make Yadier Molina seem special. There are many other qualities that Yadi has that make him one of the greatest players to don the Cardinals uniform, but there is one more characteristic that Yadi has that may convince you that Yadier Molina is, indeed, a superhero. This characteristic is leadership. A lot of players are leaders, so how does this quality in particular make Yadi a superhero? Allow me to elaborate.
Yadi’s on-the-field leadership is second to none. The trust that his pitchers have in him is something that has kept the Cardinals afloat during the Wild Card chase. When Yadi is absent for any period of time, the tone of the game changes dramatically. This is not to say that Yadi’s backups aren’t perfectly capable catchers. Francisco Pena, the Cardinals current backup for Yadi, is a very good catcher and might be starting for some other teams. Carson Kelly, when given opportunities, has shown some promise. The simple fact of the matter, though, is that they aren’t Yadi. When the Cardinals need someone to come through, Yadi never fails to do so. Finding a replacement for Yadi is impossible because he is one of the most irreplaceable players in baseball.
Even when he isn’t playing for the Cardinals, he is a leader. This was observed in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics. In 2013, Yadi was given credit for taking a Puerto Rican team, full of “nobody” pitchers, and leading them to the championship game against Japan. Even though they lost the gold medal game, they brought back a silver medal to Puerto Rico. In 2017, Yadi took the WBC by storm. This performance by Yadi in 2017 was somehow even more impressive than his performance in 2013, mostly because of Yadi’s age and the doubt surrounding his abilities entering Spring Training in 2017. Molina was the clear captain of the Puerto Rican club, leading them to an undefeated record throughout the contest. He was named MVP of the pool that Puerto Rico was in, and likely would have been named the MVP of the 2017 WBC if his team would have been able to defeat the USA in the gold medal game. Once again, Puerto Rico came up just short and took home a silver medal, their only loss of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
It doesn’t stop on the field, either. When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in late September of 2017, Yadi immediately began fundraising. When the season ended early for the Cardinals for the second straight season, most players went back to their homes and rested. Molina did not. As soon as he could, Molina made his way down to his devastated homeland. Yadi and volunteers for Fundacion 4 hand-delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars in supplies to the Puerto Rican people. It was no surprise when earlier this month, it was announced that Molina is the Cardinals’ nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award.
No, Yadi can’t climb walls like a spider, nor does he have super strength (that we know of). However, he is seemingly ageless, has so much baseball knowledge that it appears he can read minds, and can lead any team regardless of the situation and turn them into something great. Maybe in some other cities and on some other teams, there are players that can claim that they can control the game or that any team would be better off with them on it than without. Even so, none of them can claim that they can do what Yadi has already done, and that’s what makes him legendary.