ST. LOUIS — As the national profile of Yadier Molina climbs into the superstar stratosphere, manager Mike Matheny has a reaction that many Cardinals fans can relate to.
“What’s taken so long,” Matheny asks.
Matheny, of course, has long extolled the virtues of the 29-year-old catcher. The skipper sees Molina handle the Cardinals’ pitching staff like a coach. He sees Molina shut down running games, turn balls into strikes with his pitch framing and block bouncers in the dirt. And oh yeah, he sees Molina with the best batting average in the National League, .353 going into Tuesday night’s game at Houston.
Now the rest of the baseball world seems to be catching on to what Matheny has seen for years.
The two latest examples of Molina’s rising stardom: — He moved past Buster Posey into first place in All-Star balloting by the fans. Molina not only leads Posey, the N.L. MVP, at the catcher position, Molina has collected more votes than any player in the National League.
— In an informal poll published by the Boston Globe Sunday, Molina was chosen as the No. 1 player in the game. The Globe asked 30 “baseball people” to name the player they would most want to build a club around, and Molina was the winner in a landslide.
He garnered 14 first-place votes, with Posey second at five. Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout each got two votes. With one vote were Dustin Pedroia, Matt Harvey, Justin Verlander, Manny Machado and Felix Hernandez.
“Normally, I would go for the power-hitting shortstop,” one scout told the Globe. “(Alex Rodriguez) was always my choice years ago. Troy Tulowitzki is another guy right up on my list, except that Tulo can’t seem to stay healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have Trout and Machado on my team but when you have a catcher who can do what Molina can do and how he impacts that team, I think he’s the guy right now.”
He’s not the only one to think so, either, at last.
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