It’s been a year since Yadier Molina announced his retirement from the Cardinals and receded into the comforts of impending Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Widely considered a generational player, Molina worked tirelessly throughout his lengthy career to improve all facets of his craft. In addition to excelling at the myriad of defensive skills a catcher is wont to possess—calling a game, managing a pitching staff, blocking pitches, and gunning down runners—he propelled himself into being a middle-of-the-order hitter during his prime and sustained league-average offensive production for most of his career.
While metrics like WAR, wOBA, UZR, and DRS tell a story of an illustrious career, his intangibles truly separate him from most baseball players of the last couple of decades.
Most people think the sharp increase in steals this year was because of the larger bases, but it's really only because Yadier Molina finally retired.
— Foolish Baseball (@FoolishBB) October 13, 2023
Yes, you read that correctly: Yadier Molina’s intangibles affected his team, teammates, clubhouse, and organization in a way unlike many other MLB players since he became a starter in 2005.
Look no further than this past season’s failures in St. Louis. Talent-wise, there was no discernable difference between the 2022 and 2023 Cardinals roster. Yet, performance-wise, they went from the top few teams to the bottom few teams. While I am not implying that this was all caused by Molina departing, many of the stories that surfaced regarding the team in ’23 had to do with matters over which Molina had plenty of influence during the previous two decades.
Molina is a unicorn, in many regards; a player who could have been regarded as a superstar, at least for a couple of seasons during his peak, but never regarded as such. While he was considered the best defensive catcher for most of his career, he was overshadowed by a few excellent hitting catchers like Joe Mauer and Buster Posey.
For a star player who amassed nine Gold Gloves, 10 All-Star appearances, and two World Series titles to be considered underrated is very rare.
Molina was underrated to the extent of being consistently absent from the top-10 consideration. Yet, when you combine his defensive and offensive profile, that should not have been the case, even before considering the elite level of intangibles he possesses.
Another aspect that gets little to no attention is his ability to communicate with pitchers across many generations. As a young player, he quickly gained the trust of a veteran staff featuring the likes of Matt Morris, Jason Isringhausen, Mark Mulder, and Jeff Suppan. As a veteran, he was able to switch gears and become critical in the development of pitchers many years his junior. Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha all showed extended flashes of brilliance while throwing to Molina.
Plus, who can forget his historic relationship with Adam Wainwright?
The surprise of the season.
Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina are here for Adam Wainwright’s retirement ceremony. Adam had no idea Yadi was coming and buried his head in his hands upon the announcement. This is Yadi’s first time at Busch Stadium since his own retirement. pic.twitter.com/IuYVgaLAzi
— Katie Woo (@katiejwoo) October 1, 2023
Molina wasted no time demonstrating his eagerness to practice his extensive knowledge of the game as a manager, becoming one in the Venezuelan Winter League immediately following his retirement from MLB. He followed that experience by managing his native Puerto Rico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Molina possesses every trait you look for in a manager and speaks both English and Spanish. Baseball may be his native tongue, but his ability to communicate in multiple languages is a tremendous asset in today’s game.
As someone who possesses an excellent track record with pitchers and catchers, his ability to read a game tactically and understand what the other team is trying to do may be what ultimately separates him from most. His former teammate, Tommy Edman, put it perfectly, saying, “There are times he can predict what’s going to happen or has a good idea what’s going to happen before it does.”
When you possess the kind of vast knowledge that Molina has about baseball, seeing your opponent’s next moves takes that knowledge to the next level.
Besides Molina’s clear knack for everything baseball, he also has a magnetic personality around which players naturally tend to orbit. He is widely considered to be an excellent all-around person.
Molina had two brothers who also played in the majors, representing a rare trio of MLB brothers. The Molinas are the latest such example, but before them came the Alou brothers. Much like the Alous, while the two elder Molinas had plenty of success, they were outdone by the youngest sibling. Felipe Alou and Yadier Molina exceeded their brothers’ play and delivered truly noteworthy careers. Felipe Alou went on to have an even more illustrious managerial career, and Yadier Molina may very well follow in his footsteps.
While it would be quite the leap for Molina to immediately go from retirement one offseason to helming a Major League franchise the next, whenever that day comes, he will be more than ready for it. It’s more likely that Molina will become a bench coach this offseason or rejoin the Cardinals in some capacity.
The chances of Yadier Molina joining the #STLCards' coaching staff seem to be climbing by the day
In an interview with @WKAQ580, he said:
"There is something cooking. I have had various offers in the United States last year with Miami and St. Louis. This year I have offers too.… pic.twitter.com/fyd2GHcZg8
— STL Sports Central (@stlsportscntrl) October 24, 2023
Yet, he will soon be viewed as the cream of the crop for the next managerial openings.
This leads to the Mets’ current vacancy. I don’t see any better place for Molina to start his career as a manager than in New York. With the tremendous amount of Spanish speakers in New York and a large Puerto Rican fanbase, Molina would be perfect culturally. Being able to take questions in both Spanish and English, as well as attracting an increased following of Hispanic-Americans to Citi Field, would just be a bonus to all the skills he brings as a manager.
Two of the Mets’ biggest stars, Francisco Lindor and Edwin Diaz, both grew up idolizing Molina. The club’s young, talented catcher, Francisco Alvarez, even chose to wear No. 4 as an homage to the Cardinals legend. Having the influence of someone like Molina on such a unique player as Alvarez may be a worthwhile hire just for that sole reason.
— Alejandro Escalante (@Alejandro99es) January 7, 2023
When including the Mets’ recent hire of President of Baseball Operations David Stearns, who had many close encounters with Molina in the National League Central, this hire starts to look perfect from any and every angle.
The Mets’ well-documented interest in Craig Counsell and their ability to pay him whatever he wants makes Molina the obvious second choice. (Molina’s inexperience simply can’t compete with Counsell’s success and track record.)
Here’s hoping for Molina to join the Mets staff in some capacity, either as their manager or as Counsell’s right-hand man. The effect he can have on an entire organization is abundantly clear from his years in St. Louis and his absence this past year.
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