Yadier Molina: The New Pujols
In my mind, there was only one truly ugly and disappointing moment in the Cardinals’ postseason run. It came after a disastrous Game 5 of the World Series, during which Albert Pujols called a botched hit and run and then misplayed a ball that led to the winning run. Pujols skipped out of the press interviews after the game, leaving the real work to the defenseless youngsters. When the press finally caught up with Pujols the next day and asked him about his actions, he said these unpleasant words in his defense: “Part of that is knowing that I deserve special treatment.”
Apparently the Cardinals weren’t in complete agreement with Pujols’ opinion of himself, preferring to let him go rather than center the franchise solely around him. Perhaps it’s because they realized that they already had an under-contract replacement for Pujols’ self-centered, diva-like personality in his once-constant companion, Yadier Molina.
Before I say anything else, let me just reiterate that Molina is one of my favorite players on the field. Defensively he’s one of the very best (if not the best) in baseball. He has a keen understanding of the hitters in the league and how to attack them. He’s fiery and emotional, a man almost possessed to win. And there is no way to ignore the vast improvements he’s made to his offensive game over the years. If he’d actually make an attempt to run out ground balls, he might really be something.
Molina’s talent, his aggressiveness, and his puppy-dog looks have made him a favorite among Cardinal fans for seven years. That’s why fans snapped up every available ticket within hours for Molina’s autograph session at this weekend’s Winter Warm Up (at $75 a piece!) just to see their beloved catcher, say thank you, and get his autograph.
Unfortunately, Molina decided to skip the charity event. For the second straight year.
Last year, the excuse was a sick child. Okay, said Cardinals fans, we can accept that. However, the Cardinals made it clear that they were unhappy with Molina’s absence from the event, choosing to reprimand him in private. This year, Molina had no excuse except some mysterious “family event” around which he simply could not find two hours out of his three month offseason to meet the fans.
John Mozeliak was left to explain to disappointed fans why their hero was missing. “I just don’t think he loves the autograph process and going through all of that,” said a flabbergasted Mozeliak, adding that the club will address the issue at a later time.
Let’s make this clear: Yadier Molina is an employee of the St. Louis Cardinals. His “job” is to play a game for fans and be idolized by millions across the country. One of his obligations as an employee of the Cardinals is to make an appearance FOR CHARITY and FOR THE FANS for two whole hours in January.
Yet, for some reason, Molina thinks he’s too special to meet that obligation and mingle with the little people who are paying good money to worship him.
The other members of the team were there, including Carlos Beltran and J.C. Romero, who have yet to play even one inning for the franchise. Decorated senior members like Chris Carpenter, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman were there as well. Hell, even Tony La Russa showed up to support his FORMER team. But, for some unsettling reason, Molina feels like he is somehow above such obligations.
Remember when the team punished Adam Kennedy for skipping the Winter Warm Up in 2008? Remember how TLR publicly reprimanded Scott Spiezio for arriving late to the event that same winter? This shows beyond a doubt that the club views non-participation in this event as a serious infraction, not some minor inconvenience.
Molina is not better than anyone else on the team. He does not get to make his own schedule or gain extra privileges not offered to other players. The Cardinals sponsor this special event in order to help charities in the area, as well as give fans a (costly) treat in the winter to celebrate their favorite players. Not showing up to this event two years in a row is a slap in the face to his employer, as well as the numerous fans who waited in the cold with emptied wallets just to see him.
As Pujols’ recent exit shows, there is no more room on this club for players who think the world revolves around them. It’s time for Molina to act like a man rather than a spoiled brat, and support his team rather than abandon it.