Yadier Molina reached the 2,000-career hit plateau Thursday evening with a seventh-inning single to center field. Molina becomes only the 15th catcher in Major League Baseball history and sixth St. Louis Cardinals hitter to reach the career milestone. More importantly, it includes Yadier Molina among players that have been successful at reaching baseball’s Hall of Fame.
A Little History at Catcher
Since 1961, only seven catchers currently have a Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement greater than Molina’s 54.6 WAR. The top five, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, and Mike Piazza, have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The next two ahead of Molina are Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre at 62.3 and Russell Martin at 55.2 fWAR. However, it’s Yadier Molina’s 371.5 Defensive WAR during that same period that separates him from all the other MLB catchers. Pudge’s 320.0 fWAR is the next best to Yadier’s career performance behind the plate since the beginning of the expansion era of baseball. If this statistical evidence isn’t enough to convince you, consider two World Series championships, nine All-Star games, and eight Rawlings Gold Glove awards additional proof of Molina’s worthy position as future Hall of Famer.
A Defining Moment
Why then is the 2,000-hit plateau the defining factor for Molina? Believe it or not, no Major League Baseball position player since 1961 has been selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame with fewer than 2,000 career hits. Bench, Carter, Rodriguez, Fisk, Piazza, and recent selection Ted Simmons are the only catchers from the post-1950’s era selected to Cooperstown’s ultimate fraternity. All of them finished their playing careers with more than 2,000 hits. While Joe Mauer and his 2,123 career hits await their first opportunity on the ballot, others with fewer than 2,000 hits but great careers arguably deserving of Hall of Fame have yet to see induction.
Thurman Munson (1,558 hits), Jorge Posada (1,664), and Elston Howard (1,471) all completed their playing days below the 2,000-hit threshold. All with strong cases for Hall of Fame consideration with no luck getting enough votes on ballot or selection committees so far. San Francisco Giants 33-year-old, three-time championship catcher Buster Posey, currently sitting out the 2021 season, could be the most interesting upcoming case if he fails to meet the base hit milestone. Posey has only 1,380 hits and has seen his playing time reduced in recent seasons. Some would say Posey has already proven to be a Hall of Fame player regardless of his career hit total.
Still, history has shown us that players who finish playing shy of 2,000 hits fail to reach the Hall. Catching greats of the era, Lance Parrish, Bob Boone, Jim Sundberg, and Benito Santiago would seem guys worthy of conversation. They all find themselves shy of 2,000 career hits and seemingly beyond consideration for Hall of Fame. Although, advanced metrics indicate they were among the best defensively to ever play the position.
Other Players Below 2,000
Outside of catchers, other players short of 2,000 hits that make good arguments for Hall of Fame include Bobby Grich, Jim Edmonds, Andruw Jones, Tony Oliva, Gil Hodges, Lance Berkman, Chase Utley, Brian McCann, Curt Flood, Dick Allen, Albert Belle, and Mark McGwire. As the game of baseball evolves, it’s very possible that this unwritten standard may also disappear. The next generation of the BBWAA may begin considering the accumulated career standards less critical than others. Wins Above Replacement, JAWS, and other advanced sabermetrics have brought variables previously not considered by traditional voters of the past.
For now, Yadier Molina has reached a mark that will bode well for him five years following his final baseball game. As for the others, they can only hope the standards of baseball writers change and provide them an opportunity to join others in the Hall of Fame.
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