- July 19, 2018: Yadier tallied a career-high four hits -- and sparked the Cardinals' first run-scoring opportunity. Molina had 3 singles and a double and scored two runs.
|Birth City:||Bayamon, P.R.|
|Draft:||2000 - Cardinals - Free agent|
Yadier's Dad, Benjamin Molina Sr., who coached baseball when he wasn't working on a factory assembly line, taught his sons to play all over the diamond and to respect the game.
"When I was a kid, I liked to watch my brothers and learn," Yadier said during the 2009 season. "They played the game like I want to play right now, aggressive and confident."
They all still learn from each other, via TV, telephone and text message, because they are bound not only by blood but also by a communal sense of pride in their profession. They believe a catcher's sole responsibility is to work for the benefit of his pitcher. (Lindsay Berra-ESPN the Magazine-8/10/09)
The Molina brothers grew up in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, a community long known as "El Pueblo de los Nangotaos—the Village of the Squatters." The nickname refers to the pose local sugar-cane cutters to assume while waiting for the train, but it bolsters the notion that the Molinas were destined to play the position that made them famous.
The Molinas' house in Vega Alta was tiny: two bedrooms, one for the parents and one for the boys. The boys' room had two beds in it; Bengie and Yadier shared one, and Jose had the other.
Each morning Benjamin would rise early to go to work at the Westinghouse factory, where he made elevator parts. He would return each afternoon around four and, soon after, herd his sons across the street to Jesus (Mambe) Rivera Park, where they would exhaust the daylight playing baseball.
"When other dads were eating and sleeping, taking naps, he was taking us to the ballpark to teach us the right way to play the game," Jose says.
Asked during 2013 spring training who had influenced him the most, Yadier said, "My dad and my mom. They cared about me. They taught me the right way to live and the right way to play baseball. My dad was a baseball player. He helped me and my brothers."
Molina is the younger brother of catchers Bengie and Jose Molina, both of whom were also long-time big league catchers. After they signed and moved to the Majors, Yadi covered his bedroom with newspaper clippings about Bengie and Jose. Over the next seven years, Yadi's drive to do whatever it took to rejoin them only increased.
"I wanted to be like them, you know?" he says. "At that age, the way I looked at them, it was like, Wow, they're in the big leagues, even when they were in the minors. When Jose would come back home during the off-season, he'd bring all this stuff from the Cubs: pants, jerseys, shoes. He'd be like, 'Hey, Yadi, don't touch this.' When he'd look away, I'd grab it."
In 2001, Yadier was Rick Ankiel's catcher at Johnson City (APPY), when the pitcher was "coming back" from a wild streak. Ankiel raved about Yadier's work behing the plate.
During the offseason before 2004 spring training, Baseball America rated Molina as the #3 prospect in the Cardinals' organization.
Yadier made his Major League debut, as catcher for the Cardinals on June 2, 2004, against the Pirates. He had shot through the minors and was just 21 years old. In his first at-bat, he popped out, but finished the game 2-for-4 with a single, a double, and a run scored.
In 2006, Molina became just the third catcher to earn the distinction of playing in two World Series before age 25, following Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra.
November 2008: Molina's father, Benjamin, collapsed and died while coaching a youth league game in his native Puerto Rico. Yadier was at the field. The elder Molina was a standout amateur player and fostered a love for the game and a sense of purpose in each son.
A thousand people turned out for his funeral, many of them boys and men he had coached.
Yadier dedicated his performance for Team Puerto Rico in the March 2009 World Baseball Classic to his father.
Yadier was named to the 2009 NL All-Star Team. He flew more than a dozen friends and family from his native Puerto Rico to St. Louis for the festival.
"It's a great thing. My brothers and I grew up in a family that loved baseball. It's something we shared. My family loves to watch the game. It's part of what is special about this," Molina says.
October 2009: Molina was being sued by Steiner Sports Marketing, a New York sports memorabilia company. Steiner says they had a contract with Molina dating to October 2006. It says Steiner paid Molina $90,660 in advance when the contract was renewed in July 2008, but that the player later refused to attend autograph signings and would not return the money.
Steiner was seeking damages in excess of $175,000.
"He owed us autographs and appearances, but he was not willing to do that," CEO Brandon Steiner said. "He thought he could blow us off."
On April 17, 2010, Yadier caught all 20 innings of the Cardinals' 2-1 loss to the Mets. He went 3-for-9 and drove in the lone run for manager Tony LaRussa. The next night, he caught another nine innings in a 5-3 victory over New York.
July 6, 2012: Molina was placed on the bereavement list after his wife's grandfather died. The team said the catcher had returned to his native Puerto Rico. That grandfather raised Yadi's wife, and he was close with the man, also.
March 2013 Worlde Baseball Classic: Molina was named to the All-Classic Team after hitting .259 and catching a Puerto Rican pitching staff that compiled a 2.88 ERA.
Off the field, Yadier said, "I love music. I have a studio in my house, and when I'm there I try to make some music."
Other "likes": Food: Rice and beans, Sports team (not baseball): Dallas Cowboys, Music: "Everything from salsa to reggae and merengue." Movie: Men of Honor, Actor: Cuba Gooding Jr., Car: Cadillac Escalade, Hobby: "Being with my family is my hobby," Molina said.
Yadier says, "I would have loved to have watched Roberto Clemente."
It was against the wishes of most everyone who had a vested interest in Yadier Molina's budding baseball career -- family members, baseball coaches, long-time friends—but Benjamin Molina Sr. refused to listen to outside opinions. He was insistent that his son would keep playing, even if it were in a league with men as much as twice his age.
Yadier Molina had been suspended from his youth league, and his dad feared the repercussions of a layoff. He believed the Double-A league, which featured the best amateur players in Puerto Rico, could be an option.
Double-A players ranged widely in age, the youngest usually 17, some as old as 40. When baseball was still a sanctioned sport in the Olympics, these were the players chosen for the national team.Yadier was 15 when his father scheduled a workout. It took one practice session before Molina was added to the Hatillo Tigres roster. Right away, he earned a starting job.
"Nobody thought that he could do the job with those big old men," big brother and Cardinals assistant hitting coach Bengie Molina said. "They thought he was good, but nobody thought he could play at that level. My dad said, 'You know what, play through it. Whatever.' For some reason, my dad had a feeling he was going to be alright."
Once himself an amateur player in Puerto Rico, Benjamin Molina reared his boys on the baseball field. He dreamed that they would one day become professional players, never knowing that he would eventually become the patriarch of Major League Baseball's most acclaimed catching family.
Bengie spent 13 years in the Majors before beginning his coaching career this season. In 2013, Jose completed his 14th season after two years in Tampa Bay. Neither, though, has been as elite as the younger. He's considered the gold standard behind the plate, the rudder that keeps a pitching staff on course. Bengie insists it is all a product of the unpopular decision his dad made all those years ago.
"He was a kid who was playing with men," Bengie said. "That right there made Yadi who he is right now. People think that the Minor Leagues did it. Yes, it helped. But in my mind, when my dad took him and put him in that amateur league, that's when he became a man."
As a child, Yadier Molina floated around the baseball diamond. Almost always, though, he found his way back behind the plate. He began catching around age 5, and Bengie recalls how his younger brother would always be the first player taken in the youth league draft.
Yadier got noticed in the amateur leagues and was eventually taken by the Cardinals with their fourth-round pick in the 2000 draft. Once in the Cardinals' system, he learned from famed instructor Dave Ricketts, as well as Mike Matheny, who, after one Spring Training workout, broke the news to his wife, Kristen.
"I saw the kid," Matheny told her, "who is going to steal my job."
Matheny continues to be amazed. In a year when the Cardinals were boosted by the contributions of so many rookie pitchers, Molina was the constant. "Follow Yadi," became a mantra of sorts as each new wave of players arrived. The young pitchers certainly had the prerogative to shake off their catcher; regardless, most didn't.
"It definitely takes a lot of pressure off of us," rookie Kevin Siegrist said. "He encourages us to throw what we want to throw, and pretty much 100 percent of the time, he's right. If we execute what he calls, we're going to have good success."
In 2013, Molina posted a catcher's ERA of 3.16, the lowest of his career and fourth lowest in the Majors in 2013. He also caught a National League-most 1,115 innings despite battling a knee injury that put him on the disabled list for two weeks.
He has navigated several kids through the biggest appearances of their career, oftentimes initiating mound meetings to calm them down as things look to be going awry. Matheny has joked that he wants to learn what exactly it is that Molina says, since more times than not instant execution follows.
During Spring Training, Molina is among the earliest to arrive each morning. He's typically among the last to leave the field, too. In between, not only is he working to get better, but he is tutoring the organization's young catchers on how to also improve.
"I never worked that hard, to tell you the truth," Bengie Molina said. "It's not that I didn't work hard, but not that hard. It was amazing the way he worked. It was no wonder he's the best in the world. It doesn't happen by accident. It happens through a lot of work."
Molina has emerged as the face of a Cardinals franchise now seeking its third World Series championship since the catcher made his Major League debut.
"You have the baseball tangibles that he displays, whether it's defense, what he does from an offensive standpoint now that he's put himself in an elite category, especially with what position he plays," Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said. "But I also think there are things that he's grown into, like his leadership. He's almost sort of the glue of the club. You see it in the way he carries himself and the way his teammates respect him. When you combine the baseball skills with all that, it shows the importance of what he brings to the team." (Jennifer Langosch - MLB.com - 10/21/13)
A few hours before the Rays and Cardinals opened their two-game series at Tropicana Field in June 2014, Yadier stood on his dugout steps. He leaned on the railing and looked out toward center field, where his 5-year-old son was stretching with his brother, Jose, and the rest of the Tampa Bay players.
"Right now, he's having a blast," said Molina as the one red shirt bobbed back and forth among the Rays' light blues. "He loves baseball, he loves to be around players, he watches highlights every day and every night. Just to be here with his uncle, it's a great time for him." (Adler - mlb.com - 6/10/14)
Yadier is the youngest of the three Molina brothers, at age 33. Jose, who catches for the Rays (all the Molinas are catchers by trade), is likely toward the tail end of a long career, having turned 39 on June 3. (Bengie, who is almost 40, is retired, and coaches first base for the Rangers.)
"It's always fun, it's always good to see him, and I'm always happy to have him on the same field that I am," Jose Molina said. "And I just want to go out and try to beat him."
Yadier, on the other hand, said it's weird to have two Molinas in one stadium, but nice for the family and their friends. "It's always weird, you know, because you want him to do good, too, and you want to win games," Yadier said. "You want him to do good, but at the same time you want him to do not that good."
Yadier isn't quick to forget that when he was drafted in 2000, he had the benefit of having two older brothers already ahead of him, further along the same path and ready to show him the way. Jose, looking back, said that while he was of course ready to show Yadier he could, only Yadier could tell you how much of an impact he actually had.
"I tried to help him all the time, and whether I helped a lot, or less, that's his thing," Jose said. "You know, he has to answer that."
Yadier was glad to. He ran through a list of lessons his brothers had taught him: Stay calm. Be patient. Just play hard. Play the game the right way. "You know, I was blessed to have those guys, Bengie and Jose," Yadier said.
Jose is pretty happy for Yadier himself. "You can't imagine. I'm really proud of him, just being where he's at at this point of his life. I'm just proud of him," Jose said. (6/10/14)
Matt Carpenter said leadership is what makes Molina truly indispensable to his team. "One of the things about him is, as big of a superstar as he is, as great of a player as he is, he's an even better person, a better teammate," Carpenter said of Molina. "He takes time with guys, getting to know them, and helps teaching young guys the things that he knows. That's what makes him great." (7/14/14)
Molina has never won a National League Most Valuable Player Award. A third-place finish in 2013 (the trophy going to a deserving Andrew McCutchen) is the closest he has come to claiming the hardware. But a strong case can be made that Molina has been the league's, and the sport's, most valuable player across the past 12 seasons.
The Cardinals had reached the postseason eight times in Molina's first 11 seasons. The one constant from 2004 to 2015 time is the man from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, who 11 years ago almost to the day, on June 3, 2004, was summoned to replace Mike Matheny. The club's manager now, Matheny won four Gold Gloves. His successor has taken seven in a row, and good luck snapping the streak.
"You have to have fun," Molina said. "And I'm still having fun doing this. It happened fast. It doesn't seem like 12 years." Time flies when you're having fun, they say.
Yadier was the third Molina brother to reach the big time. All along, Bengie and Jose repeatedly had informed anyone who would listen that their kid brother was something special, the best in the family.
"That guy is everything to this team," said second baseman Kolten Wong. "He's the leader on the field, the leader of the pitching staff. He takes control of the game to make sure everyone's on the same page. When he says something, you better listen. He definitely keeps this team on track."
Molina played in the 2014 NL playoffs, extending his franchise postseason records to 86 games and 89 hits. But a strained oblique took him out of Game 2 of the NL Championship Series against the Giants. (Spencer - mlb.com - 6/4/15)
June 20, 2015: The field is distinguishable now, thanks to the sizeable donation Yadier Molina made in 2012 to transform the tired plot of land back into a place where young Puerto Rican ballplayers flocked. It needed a new caretaker.
Benjamin Molina Sr. had long watched over the field at Jesús Mambe Kuilan Park, that diamond basically existing as an extension of his home, which sat just across the street within their barrio of Espinosa. It was where he raised three sons (Bengie, Jose, and Yadier) who went on to become three Major League catchers, each of whom has multiple World Series rings.
But the accolades were mostly asterisks to the senior Molina, or Pai, as he was affectionately called by his family. For Pai's legacy wasn't in raising three Major League players. It was in developing generations of wholesome young men. Pai would still be coaching in Puerto Rico had it not been for his sudden death from a heart attack in 2008. He was 58 when he died, collapsing before the start of another youth game on his beloved field.
So much of his life before that, though, had been as a father to a community. He was a superstar player in Puerto Rico for many years but never bragged about it. In fact, it wasn't until Pai died that his sons learned their father had once sat in a dugout with Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, whose photo has long adorned a wall at the Molina household.
Pai never told his sons, either, that he had given up his own Major League dream for them. He didn't care to dwell on the sacrifice. He preferred to appreciate the gain. Offered the chance to try out in front of a Major League scout, Pai, who would later be inducted into the Puerto Rican Baseball Hall of Fame, never showed up. He had just found out his wife was expecting their first child, and decided their growing family needed a steady income.
Pai went on to spend decades working at a Westinghouse factory during the day before assuming the role of coach in the evening. Pai's objective as a coach was to do more than improve the boys' baseball IQ and skill set. He wanted to raise them to be humble and respectful men.
"He would say, 'You guys need to make sure you respect the umpire, respect your mother and father, respect the teacher, respect the game and play the game the right way,'" Bengie recalled. "'You don't show up anybody. You run the bases when you hit a ground ball.' That's what he taught us. I think that goes with life."
Pai's mark was left on many future Major Leaguers, among them Ivan Rodriguez, Bernie Williams and Jose Hernandez. Pai once kicked Rodriguez off an All-Star team for throwing his helmet. Rodriguez rejoined the club a week later, but only after an apology and a promise that he'd play the game with more respect.
The matriarch of the family, Gladys, was much more affectionate than her husband, though Pai had his moments. Bengie's favorite story to share about his dad is the one when Pai interrupted dinner one night and ushered his eldest son across the street to the field. Bengie, feeling he had disappointed his father for not being a better player, had been downcast all night. They stepped over the white lines and Pai put his arm around Bengie.
"He told me that he loved me," Bengie said. "For me, that was very special. He said, 'You see, right here, you're going to be fine.' He tried to explain to me that it was going to be OK. It was one of the few times he said I love you to me." (J Langosch - MLB.com - June 19, 2015)
April 8, 2016: The most distinguished catcher in franchise history has set another benchmark. With his start behind the plate in the 7-4 win over the Braves, Yadier Molina passed Ted Simmons for the most games caught as a Cardinal.
Beginning with his Major League debut in 1968, Simmons caught 1,439 games with St. Louis over a 13-year span. Molina matched that total in Pittsburgh and surpassed it with his fourth start in this, his 13th season in a Cardinals uniform.
"To be at this level is hard to do for a long time," said Molina, an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner. "Obviously, when I signed after the 2000 draft, I never thought I would be in this position. It's a great feeling." (J Langosch - MLB.com - April 9, 2016)
Five years after Yadier and his wife, Wanda, brainstormed the idea of beginning a business that could connect with the Cardinals fan base, Molina is ready to begin selling items from his M4 clothing apparel line in the Cardinals' Busch Stadium team store.
"I wanted to do this because St. Louis is my home and fans here have been so supportive of me over the years," Molina said. "I'm very excited to share these items with the best fans in baseball. We've worked hard to develop something that we hope fans will love and that allows me to communicate my passion, as well sharing more of me, my values and my heritage with Cardinals Nation."
The items that will be sold at Busch Stadium have been designed specifically for Cardinals fans and will not be available at any other locations. They include shirts for men, women and children, as well as caps. Merchandise prices for the items will range from $36 to $45.
Planning for this partnership between the Cardinals and Molinas began back in Spring Training. "M4 is about adventure, with fun, bright colors," Molina said. "The name is simple—M4. It is adaptable. It is memorable. It is timeless. I really hope fans will like the line as much as we enjoyed designing it for them." (Langosch - MLB.com - 6/30/16)
July 2, 2016: Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina became the 34th catcher in Major League Baseball history to collect at least 1,500 career hits with a fourth-inning single in the 3-0 Cardinals win over the Brewers. Molina singled to center off Brewers pitcher Jimmy Nelson to reach the milestone and received a standing ovation. He tipped his helmet to the crowd as he stood on first base
.While he'll remember the moment, it doesn't carry too much weight in his mind. "Right now, it doesn't mean anything for me," Molina said. "All it means is that we got the win today and [Adam Wainwright] pitched a great game and we played good defense today. Obviously 1,500 is a lot of hits, but I've got to keep going."
Molina is the second catcher to reach the mark in a Cardinals uniform. Ted Simmons collected 1,704 hits in St. Louis from 1968-80. Earlier this season, he broke Simmons' franchise record for innings caught. (N Krueger - MLB.com - July 2, 2016)
September 29, 2016: The Cardinals set out to celebrate Hispanic heritage with a Spanish-language radio broadcast of their game with the Reds. They received a 4-3 walk-off win and much more—a special moment between two brothers, members of Major League Baseball's first family of catchers.
Bengie Molina was on the call as his younger brother Yadier hit a home run and a walk-off double to give the Cardinals the victory. "I started just yelling in the background," Bengie said of the game-winner. "I didn't know what to do. I was so happy, I just didn't know what to do. It's a dream, man, it really is."
As Yadier rounded third after his home run, he pointed up to the broadcast booth, and Bengie pointed right back at him. "I can't wait to listen to [the call]," Yadier said. "I'm happy for him, and I'm happy we got the win for him."
"Man, I didn't know if I should cry, laugh, I really didn't," Bengie added. "It's so much joy for me, but also for him. He's been battling all year."
But the moment also went beyond family ties. The broadcast was available on La Ke Buena Spanish internet radio, KMOX's sister-station Sports Radio 98.1 HD3, cardinals.com and the MLB.com At Bat mobile app, giving some listeners a chance to hear a game in their native language, perhaps for the first time.
"It's very significant," Bengie said. "I think it's very important for the Hispanic population that we have here, I don't care if it's small or if it's big. I think it's very important for them to hear it in their own language, and not only for the good games but also so they can start loving the game if they don't already.
"God had a reason for us to be here for the first Hispanic show ever in Cardinal history," Bengie said. "To end up like this, it's just amazing." (Krueger - MLB.com)
November 28, 2016: Molina made the decision to represent Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Feb 8, 2017: Though the Cardinals' core is taking on a more youthful look, the longest-tenured member of the organization remains its pillar. That'd be Yadier Molina, who is poised to play his 14th season for the Cardinals in 2017. Molina has been the backbone of this franchise for years, but 2017 will bring with it some interesting wrinkles. Molina is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, and both he and the Cardinals have expressed an interest in discussing a potential extension.
For the Cardinals, the most challenging part of those negotiations will likely be determining how much to invest in a catcher who will be 35 years old in July. The rise and potential of young catcher Carson Kelly further complicates that decision. For while there is no debate about how valuable Molina has been to this franchise since 2004, there is the competing reality that Molina will eventually endure a performance decline. The Cardinals, however, are bullish that such a decline is not coming this season. Molina is coming off a year in which he started a career-high and Major-League-most 142 games behind the plate. Asked if he might back off in his use of Molina this season, manager Mike Matheny instead forecasted more of the same.
"My job description is to win games," Matheny said. "And if I have a player that I feel like is going to help us win games and that I feel is able to answer the bell, he's going to be in the lineup."
Molina earned his manager's continued vote of confidence by matching last season's durability with impactful production. Not only did he stay healthy, but Molina emerged as the Cardinals' most consistent offensive producer in the second half. His .365 batting average after the All-Star break ranked second best in the Majors. Furthermore, Molina finished the year leading all catchers in average (.307), hits (164) and doubles (38).
Molina's ability to nurse the pitching staff through the season has made him the most indispensable and irreplaceable player on a Cardinals team that has made it to the postseason nine times since Molina debuted. His continued mentorship will be invaluable especially to young pitchers Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes, both of whom are expected to anchor the Cardinals' rotation for many years.
Molina has said he's motivated by the fact that he was denied a ninth consecutive Gold Glove Award last fall. The drop in Molina's caught-stealing percentage (it was 21 percent in 2016) hurt his case among voters. The playing time, contract status and attempt to defy typical age regression all put Molina back in the spotlight as the start of camp nears. (J Langosch - MLB.com - Feb 8, 2017)
There are the things his teammates see and admire in Yadier. That he's tough and smart and durable. That his relentless work ethic and consistent production are the gold standard for every player wearing the Cardinals uniform.
He's a mentor to young players, especially young pitchers. Veterans trust him, too. The Cardinals have a 3.79 ERA over the last 12 years, second-lowest in the Majors, and if you don't think Molina is a big part of that, ask Adam Wainwright or Lance Lynn or Carlos Martinez.
Sure, we've become accustomed to players changing teams. Happens all the time. Part of the landscape. But some players are just different. They become embedded into the fabric of both the team and the community. That's what Molina represents to one of baseball's crown-jewel franchises. As marriages go, there have been few better. No player represents what the Cardinals would like to be more than this one. (Justice - mlb.com - 3/30/17)
At the start of the 2017 season, Molina had logged nearly 13,000 regular-season innings since 2005, the only other team whose primary catchers have crossed the 12,000 mark during that span is the White Sox (12,045 2/3), thanks mostly to Pierzynski. The Dodgers, A's, Braves and Royals come next, each reaching at least 11,500.
The 29 teams other than the Cardinals have used an average of 5.5 different primary catchers over those dozen seasons and received an average of about 2,344 fewer innings from them, compared with Molina. (Considering that the average team caught a total of 1,444 innings in 2016, that is a significant gap).
The Angels bring up the rear on the list, more than 4,100 innings behind St. Louis, with their primary catchers ranging from Molina's brother Bengie in 2005 to Carlos Perez in '16.
During this period of Cardinals catching continuity, the club has averaged 89.6 wins per season (second in the MLB), made the postseason eight times, and won six division titles and two championships. As St. Louis tries to add to those totals, Molina figures to remain an integral -- and hard-working -- part of that quest. (Simon - mlb.com - 4/6/17)
July 27, 2019: Cards manager Mike Matheney and Molina have had a unique relationship that dates back to Molina's days as a minor league catcher in the organization. Molina was called up to replace an injured Matheny in 2004 and took over as the Cardinals' starting catcher a year later. Matheny left as a free agent.
Since returning as manager in 2012, Matheny has repeatedly deflected criticism about not resting the veteran catcher more often. Matheny, who once told Brewers manager Phil Garner that his goal was to start 162 games in a season, understands and appreciates the desire Molina has to be in the lineup every day.
"I think that's a great way to prepare," Matheny said. "That's a great way to think about it -- no matter what, I'm going to be in there."
Indeed, Molina has shown a special ability to withstand the attrition of his position. The eight-time Gold Glove Award winner made a Major League-high 142 starts behind the plate in 2016, and, at age 35 in 2017, he led all catchers in starts (85) and innings caught (738) in 2017, as of the end of July.
What makes the situation a bit more complex now, however, is the arrival of Carson Kelly. Kelly, the top catching prospect in baseball, now stands to serve as Molina's backup for the coming years. Because Molina is signed through 2020, there's some natural curiosity about how playing time will be split between the two as Molina continues to age. Matheny attempted to head off some of that potential tension by pulling Molina aside on the team's flight to Chicago last week to inform him of Kelly's arrival.
Molina stressed that his Instagram comments were not meant to be an affront toward Kelly
"Let me clear up something: I've got no problem with Carson here," Molina said. "I'm going to help him out the way I can, the best way I can. He's a great kid, a great catcher, great talent."
Nevertheless, the Cardinals understand that Molina's social-media message casts an impression of clubhouse dissension. Speculation of discord was further fueled by the fact that multiple teammates "liked" the Instagram post.
Matheny, who acknowledged that he felt tension brewing in the clubhouse before this, hopes that any further issues can be resolved so as not to distract from the team's attempt to make a climb in the National League Central.
"This is one of those situations where, 'OK, we've got this. What do we do with it?'" Matheny said. "And the answer is, we go play baseball. This is one of those things we compartmentalize [and] we talk through. This is going to be something I believe -- and you've heard me talk about the toughness of our club -- it's just another opportunity for us to move forward." (J Langosch - MLB.com - July 29, 2017)
Yadier Molina's name will always be tied to the history of baseball in Puerto Rico. The veteran took the initiative to show his love for his native country in a way that goes beyond baseball. "Bottom line is, I want to help," Molina said.
Molina and his wife, Wanda, set up a GoFundMe page as a way to facilitate their relief effort for Hurricane Maria's victims in Puerto Rico. The Molinas' fundraiser, which has a goal of $1 million, was off to a fast start, seeing nearly $20,000 in donations over its first seven hours.
More than 3 million people in Puerto Rico were without power, according to news reports. Communications are all but shut down, leaving Molina and others unable to contact friends and family there. The New York Times reported more than 95 percent of the island's wireless cell sites were out of service.
"Everybody is affected," Molina said. "There is no power, no food, no water ... it's a tough situation. They were hit pretty hard. They need help down there."
Molina is a native of Bayamon and reportedly owns a home in Vega Alta. Drone video on The Weather Channel described Bayamon as looking "like a war zone." (Langosch - mlb.com - 9/21/17)
Oct 16, 2017: There has been little opportunity for Yadier Molina to rest since the Cardinals' season ended, as his time and energy have been spent traversing the streets of Puerto Rico to hand-deliver food, water and ice to residents recovering from Hurricane Maria.
Molina arrived in Puerto Rico two days after the team's final game to oversee the distribution of five truckloads of goods to people in the northern Puerto Rican towns of Vega Alta, Dorado, Utuado and Cayey. The stops were particularly personal to Molina, who grew up in Vega Alta and now has a home in Dorado
"Immediately after hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, I was extremely concerned about my family, friends and all the people in Puerto Rico," Molina said. "I felt helpless and could not concentrate not knowing if my family and loved ones were safe. I wanted to help my people as fast as I could."
That started with a fundraising campaign spearheaded by Molina's wife, Wanda Torres, in which they raised more than $150,000 for the relief effort. That money was used by Molina's nonprofit organization, Fundacion 4, to purchase the provisions that Molina then personally distributed. Molina contributed an undisclosed amount of money, as well, to assist in the efforts. Along with his older brother, Jose, and others from his foundation, Molina went door-to-door to make the deliveries.
Molina's work to aid those affected by Hurricane Maria will continue, too. He plans to host a Yadier Molina Home Run Derby and Celebrity Softball Game at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan on Dec. 8. All proceeds from the event will benefit organizations dedicated to the hurricane relief efforts. (J Langosch - MLB.com - Oct 16, 2017)
Jan. 2018: Molina announced that he plans to retire when his contract is up in 2020.
Jan 19, 2018: Having already spent two weeks going door-to-door to deliver food and water to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico last October, Yadier Molina is headed back to his homeland on to continue assisting with relief efforts. Molina is providing assistance through his personal foundation and has raised more than $180,000 for Puerto Rican aid through a Go Fund Me page that was set up by his wife. Donations, Molina said, are still welcome and needed for an island that will be recovering for many more months.
"The power is still out in some areas, but we're doing a lot better," Molina said. "We're slowly getting back." This trip, however, is just another in a series of initiatives through which Molina has given back to various communities this 2017 offseason. His work started in Puerto Rico when he arrived two days after the conclusion of the Cardinals' season. He supplemented that aid with a December Home Run Derby and Celebrity Softball Game that raised more than $200,000 for hurricane victims. Over 20,000 fans came to the event, which featured several current and former Major League players.
But his efforts have spanned other areas, too. After insisting to teammate Jose Martinez that he would come visit him in Venezuela, Molina took a trip to the politically unstable country so that he could work with aspiring Major Leaguers. Over three days, he provided instruction and advice to young players who are hoping to one day catch the eye of a big league scout.
"A lot of Venezuelans, they don't want to go to Venezuela right now," Martinez said. "And for him to come, it was pretty special because it shows you that you cannot forget where you come from. It [provided] life for the people." "I just tried to go there and help any way I could," added Molina. "I had fun with the kids and tried to teach them. It was a good experience for me. I'm glad that I did go. Those kids love baseball. They're passionate about it."
Molina found time thr offseason before 2018 spring training to try his hand at managing, as he guided the Puerto Rican U-23 National Team to a 6-3 record and third-place finish in the Pan American U-23 Baseball Championships. In doing so, the team qualified for the U-23 Baseball World Cup, which will be held in October.
Molina enlisted his brother, Jose, and long-time Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo to serve on his coaching staff. Cardinals prospects Delvin Perez and Yariel Gonzalez played on the squad."It was fun," Molina said of that experience. "It was hard, too, to please 22 guys. But at the same time, I learned a lot. You have to learn to do different stuff than when you were a player."
Molina added that it was "too early to decide" whether he would like to pursue a managerial career after he's done playing. The veteran catcher plans to retire after the 2020 season.
As the longest-tenured player in the organization, Molina was also recently enlisted to speak to a group of Cardinals Minor League players at the club's January instructional league camp. There, he spoke about his experience as a Cardinal, what it means to play for such a storied organization and provided tips on how to make the most of one's abilities. (J Langosch - MLB.com - Jan 19, 2018)
April 11, 2018: Yadier Molina dropped his appeal of the one-game suspension Major League Baseball imposed on him and served the one game suspension.. The league said the suspension stemmed from him making contact with an umpire during a benches-clearing incident over the weekend.
May 2, 2018 : Molina eclipsed another legend on another all-time list. It was Johnny Bench, whom Molina leapfrogged for sole possession of 16th place in terms of career games caught. Molina logged his 1,743rd game behind the plate when he squatted to receive Carlos Martinez's first pitch. He'd already passed Bench on the career innings-caught list earlier this season in Cincinnati, after which he called it "an honor" to be compared with the Hall of Famer.
"I am just blessed that God gave me health and to be here for 15 years catching almost every year," Molina said then. "Bench is the best, so I have a ton of respect for him. It's special to be on that list."
June 17, 2018: It was to be a notable night for Yadierfrom the moment he got behind the plate. This game was his 1,756th at the position, tying him with Gabby Hartnett for the most games caught for one team in Major League history. Hartnett, a Hall of Famer, played 19 seasons for the Cubs. Molina is in his 15th season with the Cardinals.
"It's a [point of] pride," Molina said. "I thank God for giving me help to play this game. I've been happy to have been here since my first day, and I'm going to be happy to retire as a Cardinal because this organization means a lot to me and this city means a lot to me." (Langosch - mlb.com)
July 2018 : Despite missing a month due to injury, Yadier Molina built a first-half resume strong enough to earn his ninth career All-Star selection.
Molina was named to the National League team on Monday as a replacement for San Francisco's Buster Posey, who will not participate in next week's Midsummer Classic due to a right hip injury.This All-Star invite ties Molina with Bob Gibson and Albert Pujols, each of whom earned nine such selections as Cardinals. Only Joe Medwick (10), Red Schoendienst (10), Enos Slaughter (10), Ken Boyer (11), Ozzie Smith (14) and Stan Musial (24) had more. Since his first All-Star selection in 2009, Molina has been left off the NL roster only once.
2000: Yadier signed with scout Michael Crespo of the Cardinals after they drafted him in the fourth round.
January 21, 2008: Molina and the Cardinals agreed to a four-year, $15.5 million contract. Yadier gets a $250,000 signing bonus, $1.75 million this year, $3.25 million in 2009, $4.25 million in 2010 and $5.25 million in 2011. The deal includes a $7 million club option for 2012 with a $750,000 buyout, and the option increases to $7.5 million if he is traded. But the Cards picked up that $7 million option for 2012 for Yadier.
March 1, 2012: The Cardinals and Yadier agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract that keeps Molina in St. Louis through the 2017 season. And, there is a mutual $15 million option for a 6th year (in 2018).
- April 6, 2017: Molina agreed with the Cardinals to a three-year, $60 million extension that will keep the franchise cornerstone in place through '20.
- Yadier hits the ball hard and has some power. He has a good swing, but it tends to be a long swing. When he is short and quick to the ball, he has his best success.
- Molina's plate discipline is very impressive. He has managed to make himself one of the better hitting catchers in the game.
Yadier learned to stay on balls and go the other way. His bat control is excellent.
"Yadier has such a great swing," pitcher Adam Wainwright said. "His bat is in the zone for a long time, and that gives pitchers a lot of problems. His bat path reminds me of Albert [Pujols] a few years ago, when it was like his bat went to sleep in the zone. You couldn't get that bat out of the zone. It makes it really tough to make pitches on a guy when the bat is in the zone that long." (5/28/13)
Long noted for his excellence behind the plate, Molina has become a legitimate dual threat. His batting average has steadily climbed.
"The way that he has been able to progress and become the hitter that he has become ... I remember going over in scouting meetings [how to prepare for Molina], and the biggest thing with him was, 'Don't fall asleep on him at first because he'll steal second,'" pitcher Randy Choate said. "We weren't as worried about him necessarily as a hitter. Now, when you're trying to prepare for him, you have to prepare for both sides. Fortunately, I'm not on that side anymore."
"[Albert Pujols] would talk about how to know the pitchers, and he showed me how to study the pitchers," Molina said. "I've been fortunate to have those guys when I started over here. Right now, I'm practicing what they taught me."
Brother Bengie surmises that Molina first wanted to establish himself as a defensively sound Major League catcher before turning too much attention over to the offensive side. Then, when he put his mind toward becoming a complete hitter, he picked Pujols' mind and used his exceptional work ethic to will himself to becoming elite.
August 19, 2015: Molina hit his 100th career HR.
- As of the start of the 2018 season, Yadier had a career batting average of .284 with 1,730 hits, 126 home runs and 785 RBI in 6,092 at-bats.
Molina is an excellent defensive catcher. It is his strong suit. He's the best at blocking balls, so his pitching staff is never afraid of throwing any pitch at any time.
THROWING OUT BASE-STEALERS
He has a greatd arm and a quick release. For years, he has had the best arm of any catcher in the National League.
In 2001, Yadier threw out 43 percent of Appy League runners who tried to steal on him—best in the league.
In 2002, he threw out 52 percent (49-of-94) of Midwest League runners trying to nab a base.
In 2004, Molina caught 38 percent of Pacific Coast League base thieves.
In 2005, Yadier was easily the most dominant throwing catcher in the league, gunning down 25 of 39 would-be base-stealers. Molina permitted only 14 successful steals. Among catchers with at least 100 games, the second-lowest total was 39. (However, Molina was charged with seven errors to Mike Matheny's one, and eight passed balls to Matheny's four.)
In 2006, Yadier threw out 41.3 percent of attempting base-thieves, the 2nd-best percentage in all of Major League Baseball (best in the NL), behind only Pudge Rodriguez.
As of the start of the 2007 season, Molina had the best rate for throwing out runners in all of Major League Baseball: 45.9 percent. Pudge Rodriguez was second at 44.2 percent.
In 2007, Molina threw out 46 percent of would-be basestealers. He was charged with only six errors and seven passed balls.
In 2009, Yadier threw out 41 percent of guys trying to steal a base.
In 2010, Molina nabbed 49 percent of would-be base-thieves.
In 2012, Yadier threw out 48 percent of runners trying to steal a base.In 2013, Yadier led the Majors in thrown-out-runners, nailing 44 percent of those who tried to steal.
In 2013, he threw out 43% of runners who wanted to swipe a bag.
2014: Yadi threw out 48% of runners who tried to steal -- best in the game, nailing 21 of 44 who tried.
2015: He caught 26 of 63, which s 41% of would-be base-thieves.
2016: Molina nailed only 21% in a down year, his lowest pct. of his career -- only 18 of 85 were caught.
2017: Yadi threw out 36% of runners -- 24 of 67 who tried to steal.
"Just the combination of exchange, arm strength, accuracy, and he's way off the charts as far as the consistency in that," Cardinals manager and former catcher Mike Matheny said of what makes Molina special.
Matheny noted something else that makes Molina unique: He doesn't call for certain pitches to put him in better position to throw out a baserunner. Matheny said he's seen opposing catchers call for fastballs when they think a runner will try to steal, but Molina isn't afraid to call an offspeed pitch if that's the smart pitch in a given situation.
Molina not only throws runners out at second base, he also picks them off at first base.
Between the 10 years, 2004 through 2013, opponents swiped only 511 bags against the Cardinals, two-thirds as many as any other team has yielded.
He takes charge of the game and works really well with his pitchers, even the really good ones. Molina developed an inquisitive nature from observing former Cardinal catcher Mike Matheny.
Yadier asks a lot of questions and is always studying his own pitchers and opposing hitters. His pitchers like to throw to him. He calls such a good game.
He is strong, being able to catch every day. And he works real hard back there.
PERENNIAL GOLD GLOVER
In 2008, Molina won his first Gold Glove.
And Yadier repeated in 2009, winning his second Rawlings Gold Glove after he made only five errors in 971 total chances (.995), throwing out 40.7 percent of would-be base-stealers, leading the Majors with eight pickoffs and compiling a 3.48 catcher's ERA.
In 2010, Yadier was awareded with his third Rawlings Gold Glove. He led National League catchers in innings (1,138), assists (79) and percentage of runners caught stealing (44 percent).
In 2011, Molina won his fourth Rawlings Gold Glove.
In 2012, he won his fifth for his outstanding work behind the plate.
In 2013, his sixth Rawlings Gold Glove went up on his mantle. (He also was named the Best Defensive Player with the Cardinals by Wilson.)
In 2014, Molina joined Ivan Rodriguez and Johnny Bench in Rawlings Gold Glove lore, winning his 7th-straight Gold Glove award. Rodriguez and Bench won 10 each. Those seven consecutive Gold Gloves make him just the fourth player in franchise history to accomplish that feat. In that regard, he is among company that includes Ozzie Smith (1982-92), Bob Gibson (1965-73), and Curt Flood (1963-69).
In 2015, Yadier earned his 8th consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove. Molina moved ahead of Bob Boone and into third place behind Pudge Rodriguez (13) and Johnny Bench (10) for most Gold Glove by a catcher.
Rawlings presented Yadier with his eighth National League Gold Glove Award and fourth Platinum Glove Award on April 17, 2016. It is the eighth consecutive NL Gold Glove Award for Molina, who has also been named to the last seven NL All-Star teams. The Gold Glove Award is given annually to the best defensive player at each position as voted on by the coaches and managers. The Platinum Glove is given annually to the best defensive player at each position as voted on by the fans.
"That's a special award for me; I'll never forget the first time they told me," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a four-time Gold Glove Award-winning catcher himself. "That's something that a catcher I believe takes as much pride in as maybe a player in any other position. It's a completely biased viewpoint, but I just know how much goes into that spot, and for your contemporaries who you are competing against to have enough respect for how you go about it, I think it makes that award extra special." (Harris - MLB.com - 4/17/16)
In 2009, all of the catchers throughout the game knew who sets the bar behind the plate.
"The best defensive catcher in baseball is Yadier Molina," Jorge Posada said.
Atlanta's Brian McCann echoed, "Yad is the best defensive catcher in baseball."
And Victor Martinez: "Yadier is the best behind the plate."
One publication that has tried to attach numbers to the nuances of catching, "The Fielding Bible," dubbed Yadi as baseball's best defensive catcher for 2008; Jose Molina was #2, and Bengie was at #5.
Yadier's ability to block balls in the dirt is unparalleled, mostly because he knows his pitchers so well that he's able to anticipate the movement of the ball. And if a pitcher isn't hitting his spots, Molina will shift his body, not just his glove, so that the ball thumps neatly into the webbing, as near to the strike zone as possible, on every pitch. On a good day, he says, he can steal 10 or 12 strikes for his pitcher.
Molina probably has more mental awareness than any other catcher in the game.
Former Cardinals' pitching coach Dave Duncan, who during his span was the only Major League pitching coach who was a catcher, has a theory: Puerto Rican catchers such as the Molinas—and Benito Santiago and Sandy Alomar, Jr. before them—are adept at calling games because they practiced it growing up. In the U.S., high school and college coaches, obsessed with winning, have taken that job away from catchers. As a result, many catchers lean on a logical crutch when they become pros: They call pitches they can't hit rather than work to their pitcher's strengths and the hitter's weaknesses.
"I think pitch to pitch along with Yadi, and I find my thinking very predictable where his is very innovative," Duncan says. "He surprises me, and the hitter, as well, with sequences or a pitch at a particular time."
Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright has watched Molina evolve from a defensive standout to one of the most well-rounded backstops in baseball. He still marvels at Molina's ability to make the sum of a pitching staff greater than its parts, particularly during the first half of the 2013 season, during which 11 rookies have taken the mound.
"We have so many young guys that go out there and throw quality games," Wainwright said, "but with those great arms, we need a shepherd, a mentor, a leader. Yadier makes them believe in their stuff. He gets them to execute their pitches. They know that if Yadier is catching the ball, he's going to make balls look like strikes, he's going to block every ball, he's going to throw out every runner."
Atlanta's Brian McCann, uninitiated, marveled with Adam Wainwright during the 2013 All-Star Game about the ease with which Molina plays. It's what brought young Mariners catcher Mike Zunino to the top step during Seattle's September visit. He was staring down Molina, trying to learn.
"You look at him and it looks like he's not even working hard," Johnson said. "That's what comes to your mind. He has showed me how much more relaxed he is and how controlled with his body he is."
Teammates describe his mind like that of a computer, constantly filtering scouting reports of opposing hitters while matching that up with the strength of his pitcher. He has an above-average arm to stop the running game, having held opponents to a 55 percent stolen base success rate in his career, going into the 2014 season. It's impossible to quantify, too, how many runners he intimidated from even trying.
His footwork is something to marvel. His method of receiving buys his pitchers strikes. He takes the onus of positioning his teammates—infielders and outfielders—based on how he plans to have his pitcher attack a particular hitter.
The trust the staff has in Molina's ability to block pitches also frees it to throw any pitch in any count in any game situation.
"Sometimes you see guys kind of panicking, but with him it's just like, 'I got it,'" Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook explained. "We're not even worried about it. It's not like I can't bounce this breaking ball because I don't know if the catcher is going to block it. If he calls it and tells you to bounce it, you have no problem doing it."
The difference between Molina and everyone else became clear to anyone who observed the back field blocking competition one day in Spring Training. Six catchers in big league camp joined bullpen catcher Jamie Pogue, who started the curveball machine. A line was drawn around home plate.
If a catcher could block a pitch onto the plate, it was worth two points. Stopping it within the box was scored as one. Outside of it resulted in a negative tally. There were to be three rounds. After the first round, Molina had a score that more than doubled that of any of the other five.
"It was a joke," Johnson said. "He is jumping out of the way and blocking balls that are basically going straight down onto the plate. It was so impressive. After two rounds, it was over. We didn't even need to go to three rounds. It was incredible."
Such stories have made their way around.
"I think as a pitching staff, even though we know he's amazing, we take it for granted," Adam Wainwright said. "And then when you hear other catchers talk about how great Yadi is, that just kind of reinforces the knowledge that we are throwing to the best catcher in memory. I'm very fortunate to be in a situation where I'll probably throw to one catcher for my whole career, and it's Yadier Molina. I've been very spoiled."
"I think you will notice that every catcher has one or two holes—they may not have a good arm throwing, they may not get down to the ball blocking so good, another guy doesn't catch the ball well because he's slow with his mitt," said Bengie Molina. "There are holes in catchers, just like there is with a hitter. But what I see from him is that he doesn't have any holes. That's what makes him the best."
To be a great catcher, you must relentlessly want to be a great catcher. Most players do not.
While teammates focus on more enjoyable and more lucrative activities such as hitting, catcher spend hours building expertise in a series of thankless tasks.
"They have to work on so many different facets of the game—blocking, receiving, throwing, their relationship with pitchers, there ability to call a game—and there's only a finite number of hours in a day," says Rays GM Andrew Friedman. "A second baseman is working on his defense, and it's just much more contained."
Yadi has mastered the art of "pitch framing." He never stabs at a borderline pitch but allows it to meet his glove and smoothly brings it into his chest.
"Soft," Molina said over an over. "Relaxed. Never fast." (Ben Reiter-Sports Illustrated-3/31/14)
Molina's ability to manage pitchers, especially young ones, is one of the things that makes him a cut above other cathers.
April 8, 2016: The most distinguished catcher in Cardinals' franchise history set another benchmark. With his start on April 8th, he passed Ted Simmons for the most games caught as a Cardinal.
Beginning with his Major League debut in 1968, Simmons caught 1,439 games with St. Louis over a 13-year span. Molina matched that total and surpassed it with his fourth start in this, his 13th season in a Cardinals uniform.
- June 18, 2018 : No player has caught more games in MLB history for one team than Yadier Molina has for the Cardinals.
That became official in the fifth inning of Monday's series opener against the Phillies, when Molina passed Gabby Hartnett by catching his 1,757th game in a Cardinals' uniform. Molina, who will turn 36 next month, will have ample time to build on the mark: He is in his 15th season with St. Louis and is signed through 2020.
Molina is slower than most catchers. In fact, he is one of the slowest runners in the game.
However, because pitchers and catchers don't pay any attention to him, Yadier will actually steal an occasional base. In 2012, for instance, he had 12 stolen bases.
- May 20-28, 2004: Molina was on the D.L. with the Memphis RedBirds (PCL-Cardinals) with a strained hamstring.
- July 7-August 18, 2005: Yadier suffered a hairline fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his left hand, but didn't go on the D.L.
- May 30-June 28, 2007: Molina was on the D.L. with a non-displaced fracture of his left wrist. It was splinted and immobilized. He broke it when hit by a foul tip in the third inning of a game vs. the Rockies in Denver.
- September 24, 2007: Yadier underwent surgery to repair a tear in the medial meniscus of his right knee. Molina had been dealing with the condition for over six weeks.
- June 15, 2008: Molina suffered a mild concussion in a home plate collision with Eric Bruntlett of the Phillies. Yadier was taken off the field on a body board with a brace on his neck.
- July 31-August 15, 2013: Yadier was on the D.L. with a sprained right knee.
- July 10-Aug. 29, 2014: Molina had a torn ligament in his right thumb, requiring surgery. He could miss up to two months. He was injured when he planted his hand for balance after sliding feet-first into third base in the second inning of a game vs. the Pirates.
October 13, 2014: Yadier strained his left oblique muscle during the NLCS Game 2.
October 15, 2015: Molina had surgery for a ligament injury to his left thumb. The Cardinals catcher played three games of the postseason with a compromised left thumb.
Molina followed the procedure with 8-12 weeks of no baseball activity, general manager John Mozeliak said, and was expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training in 2016.
"Had we not been a playoff team, we maybe would have dealt with it three weeks ago," Mozeliak said of Molina's need for surgery. "But it shows you how tough he is and how willing he was to help us."
December 15, 2015: Molina underwent a second thumb surgery, missing most of 2016 Spring Training.
May 6-June 5, 2018: Yadier was on the DL with pelvic injury with traumatic hematoma. Molina required emergency surgery following the injury. The operation came after Molina left an 8-6 win over the Cubs, the victim of a badly placed foul ball.