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St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina heads out of the dugout to catch the ninth inning of the Sept. 29 game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Those who don't think Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is on a Hall of Fame trajectory suffered another blow Sunday.

There is a new Gold Glove to attempt to dismiss.

A growing pile of evidence that points toward Cooperstown is becoming harder and harder to circumnavigate.

They used to focus on his offense.

The combination of Molina's pitch-calling, catching instincts and overall defensive wizardry was nearly impossible to pick at. He has been a force behind the plate for years. No question. But did he hit well enough to be a Hall of Famer?

It was natural to assume Molina, then 32, would have a hard time rebounding from a meager 2015 season at the plate. The All-Star and Gold Glove winner posted a slim .660 OPS that season, good for an adjusted OPS of 80, which was 20 points below league average. This looked like it could be the start of a slide.

But since Molina rebounded with an adjusted OPS of 111 in 2016, he has averaged .282/.330/.434 with the most hits (418) and RBIs (212) of any catcher since 2016. During that span, he ranks first among catchers in go-ahead RBIs (44) and game-winning RBIs (28). In 2018, his 15th major league season, he finished second among catchers in home runs (20) and led the position in RBIs (74). And he did this despite missing (just) a month after a foul tip to the groin forced emergency surgery. He averaged a home run every 22.95 at-bats in 2018. Imagine what numbers he might have put up without the injury.

These days, the detractors are just as likely to focus on his defense.

Yes, Molina can swing the bat OK for a catcher, especially a 36-year-old catcher, but his Hall of Fame case was always going to be built upon his defense, and the advanced metrics are not as kind to him as they once were. See how the argument can shift?

But wait, Molina just won his ninth — NINTH — Gold Glove Award. Only Hall of Fame catchers Johnny Bench (10) and Ivan Rodriguez (13) had more at the position. Similar to the offensive blip he bounced back from, Molina's latest Gold Glove came after he won eight consecutive Gold Gloves between 2008-15. Turns out not winning the past two seasons wasn't the start of a slide. Are you sensing a theme?

Managers, coaches and players don't skip a beat when saying Molina belongs in the Hall of Fame when his case comes up for consideration. Their actions speak louder. Opponents attempted to steal just 39 times against the veteran catcher in 2018.

Gold Gloves do not equal Hall of Fame passes. But nine of them seem rather significant, no?

Here's what we know today:

Molina is the greatest defensive catcher of his generation, and his offense has become more impressive than limiting, considering his position and age.

Molina ranks seventh all-time in games (postseason and regular season) started at catcher, and ninth in innings played there. He is the definition of reliability at a punishing place. He is surrounded by opposing catchers who grew up idolizing him and have not stopped.

Molina is now a nine-time All-Star with nine Gold Gloves and two World Series rings.

Every time folks figure he is close to done — after an off year, or after a terribly traumatic injury — he proves them wrong once again.

Here's a prediction: Molina will be a Hall of Famer, and the debate about his credentials is going to look silly when all is said and done.

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