Now that the Cardinals’ offense has stirred from its slumber, the team’s catcher needs his fans to do the same.
On Monday, Major League Baseball will release updated numbers on the fan voting that will determine the starting position players in next month’s All-Star Game.
Prediction: Hunting for Redbirds will be a brief exercise.
A look between the lines suggests Cardinal Nation is either not interested or perhaps even protesting after back-to-back missed postseasons and the rocky first half of 2018.
Just beware of one potential, unfortunate byproduct.
Cardinals cornerstone catcher and fan-favorite Yadier Molina could get jobbed.
No sane person would describe the Cardinals’ season as thrilling to this point. And I’ll admit it has become easy to ignore the All-Star fan vote. Involving all is a fine idea, but a process that promotes ballot-stuffing sure seems to distort the exercise to build traffic for the league’s website. But, even in its flawed state, the current construction tells us two things: which players are beloved, and which teams are trending.
The Cardinals, according to numbers released one week ago, are neither. And Molina, an eight-time All-Star in the midst of a truly impressive season despite a horrific injury, appears to be at risk of a rather significant snub.
Last week’s data showed a three-catcher race among Buster Posey of the Giants (686,253 votes), Willson Contreras of the Cubs (596,111) and Kurt Suzuki of the Braves (557,692).
It’s the NL’s closest race, the news release proclaimed, but the name Molina could not be found.
Turned out Molina was the only Cardinals player in the top-five at his position, checking in at fourth place with only 366,271 votes.
The lack of votes for the Cardinals should not come as a shock. Fans who expect annual postseason contention are frustrated, and rightfully so. And other than Molina, which players can make a strong case?
The heavy-hitting Jose Martinez deserves a look, but his defensive mistakes hurt his cause, and first base is a premier position.
Michael Wacha was rolling until he landed on the disabled list. Miles Mikolas deserves a spot if he remains one of baseball’s best surprises. And yes, it would be fun to see rookie Jordan Hicks throw triple-digit heat against the AL’s best, though it might not be best for his overworked right arm.
But remember, fans don’t have a say when it comes to pitchers. That’s on the players, managers and National League manager Dave Roberts.
The only Cardinal at risk of truly being wronged is Molina, and it does matter. The 35-year-old continues to build his Hall-of-Fame argument. These accolades help, even if you don’t think they should.
Molina is one All-Star start away from tying his friend and former teammate Albert Pujols’ fitting five. More important, he could be at risk of missing out entirely. His chances of making the team as a reserve might hinge on how many catchers the NL carries. Last year, both leagues took just two.
Keep that in mind as you read the results of a recent Denver Post article that polled Rockies players on their picks. Posey, then Contreras, claimed the Mile-High consensus. No mention of Molina.
“I don’t look at other catchers much, because I want to be me and catch how I want to catch, but Posey is always a guy who stands out every single time he plays,” Rockies catcher Tony Wolters told the Denver Post for the piece.
Count Wolters among those who choose to ignore that Posey spends a significant chunk of his time playing first base instead of catching. More than 15 percent of Posey’s innings this season have come at first. You would think a fellow catcher might care about such things.
And while we’re at it ...
Molina’s team has a better record than Posey’s. The rotation Molina oversees owns the league’s best ERA (3.37), checking in 10 spots ahead of the Giants (4.37). And while Molina has caught fewer base-stealers (four) than Posey (12), it should be noted that Molina has allowed 11 fewer steals, and fewer steals-per-inning. When picking between the two, wouldn’t you prefer the guy no one tests?
Another thing: Molina is doing more damage offensively than Posey, and every other catcher who has received more votes. He leads that bunch in home runs (11), RBIs (31) and slugging percentage (.494).
And get this: Posey doesn’t even lead his own team in home runs by a catcher. Often-used backup Nick Hundley, who has started 29 times, has three more long balls than Posey.
So please don’t tell me Molina missed too much time after the unfortunately placed foul tip that landed him on the disabled list and sent the Cardinals searching for Kevlar athletic cups.
Despite a month-long recovery, only eight NL catchers have caught more innings than Molina’s 406-plus. Only eight NL catchers have totaled more at-bats than his 174. Molina has made just three fewer starts at catcher than Posey, which should drive home how much time Posey spends not catching.
Molina’s injury has not stopped him from making a compelling case to be an All-Star starter. He’s much more deserving than Posey, with time left to strengthen his argument. Are Cardinals fans listening?