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Watching Yadier Molina is something special

3:19 PM, Apr 15, 2013   |    comments
  • Apr 14, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) receives his 2012 Rawlings Gold Glove and Platinum awards from representatives from Rawlings and the Cardinals before the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. The Brewers defeated the Cardinals 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
  • May 22, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) celebrates with catcher Yadier Molina (4) after throwing a complete game shutout against the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium. St. Louis defeated San Diego 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
    
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(The Chirp) -- They call the partnership between pitcher and catcher a battery.  And for the majority of the games so far this season, the one constant among the various battery's the Cardinals have used is catcher Yadier Molina. 

Molina has caught every game the Cardinals have played and was the man calling the shot in the recent surge of shutouts the rotation enjoyed.

On Sunday, Molina was presented with his his fifth consecutive Gold Glove and second consecutive Platinum Glove.  These awards are a testament to what Cardinals fans are watching unfold, a career defined for its consistency and one that could be destined for a place called Cooperstown.  And why not?  Molina's name is involved in every conversation regarding the "best" at his position. 

Indeed, Molina is the constant in the Cardinals decade of consistency, someone rival Ryan Braun calls the "biggest difference-maker in the game."

"You just know," Braun said, "those guys will be there in the end."

Baseball writer Corey Noles believes Molina has and will continue to be a force to reckoned with.  Here is Noles' latest writing focusing on Molina.

Cardinals' Molina continues leaving his mark on the game
By COREY NOLES

Over the years, there have been many players who had the ability to draw St. Louis Cardinals fans out to the stadium.
Starting back nearly half of a century, there was Stan Musial, then Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols. All are legends in their own right, but now that list has a new member: Yadier Molina.

The Cardinals catcher, Molina, is a soft-spoken person whose glove does his talking. So does his bat.

But, there's more to Molina than just what shows up in the box score and manager Mike Matheny will be the first to tell you so.

"How he helps a young pitcher through a pretty tough lineup and realizing when he has to change, things like that are hard to really calibrate," Matheny said during a pre-game press conference Sunday, April 14. "What he does on a day in-day out basis. It's just off the charts."

Molina's manager isn't the only one who understand what he brings to the club. The pitching staff, who regularly include Molina in their comments after a successful day on the mound, knows that Molina is a huge part of organization as a whole.

"You say something bad about Yadi to this pitching staff and you might have a fight on your hands," Matheny said with a laugh, but at the same time completely serious. "Everyone of these guys knows that a certain degree of the success that he's had has been attributed to what he has been able to do for them."

While his bat and glove are huge assets to the team, Matheny said those "intangibles" he brings to the game are the real difference.

"He's just a complete package," Matheny said. "When you start throwing in offense, that's pretty rare."

Sunday, Molina was recognized for his defensive efforts when he received the Rawlings Gold and Platinum Gloves. While the Gold Glove award is given to the best defensive player at the position in the league, only one Platinum Glove award is given in each league. It goes to the best overall defender.

Since the award began following the 2011 season, Rawlings has awarded two Platinum Gloves in each league. Of the two that were awarded in the National League, Molina owns them both-Along with now five Gold Gloves.

It's that stellar defense that has sparked comparisons to Johnny Bench.

In a recent article for ESPN.com, David Schoenfield argues that Molina is, or at least will be, "the greatest defensive catcher we've ever seen."

That would mean better than the likes of Bench and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez.

That's a serious statement and one manager Mike Matheny was reluctant to either confirm or discount-which says plenty on its own.

Growing up in Ohio, Matheny idolized Bench as a child.
"I followed him as close as a kid could follow," Matheny said. "He could throw and he could hit, but as far as how he called the game and those sort of things I wasn't educated enough to really break that down. But I've heard great things about how he did everything behind the plate."

The generation gap between Bench and Molina makes it a difficult comparison for several reasons. The chief problem is that at times, runners have been faster, making more stolen base attempts than at other points in history. As a result, it would be difficult to pit a catcher from the 1940s against a catcher from the 1980s.

Regardless, he said the comparison was impressive.
Matheny was less hesitant, however, to make comparisons between his catcher and another of his own generation: Ivan Rodriguez.

"Pudge was the benchmark of the time," Matheny said. "It was mostly because of how well he threw. He had a cannon. He could hit the ball pretty well, but I'd say Yadi has an edge on him there."

The real difference between the two, he said, can be measured. It's Yadi's passion to win and for the game, noting that he felt Molina was far beyond the point where statistics and contracts rule the day.

"He's so winning-driven," he said. "His teammates know that. They sense that. They don't just hear it because he's not a big talker. The way he goes about it day in and day out prove that's the case."

Molina is a career .279 hitter whose offensive ability has made huge leaps over the past two seasons.

His career caught stealing percentage (44.6 percent) is first among active catchers. He finished fourth in NL MVP voting in 2012 and has made four All-Star appearances.
As time goes on and he gets deeper into his career, his true place in not just Cardinals, but baseball history will begin to stand out.
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Corey Noles is a Cardinals Writer and Columnist for The Daily Statesman. His work is featured in numerous publications, as well as both regional and national websites. Contact him at cnoles@dailystatesman.com or on Twitter @coreynoles.

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