Molina’s New Deal Means He’s The Face of ’00s Cardinals

5 years. 75 million. 

That’s the new contract that the Cardinals and Yadier Molina agreed to and announced yesterday.  The quibbling has been kept to a minimum. Some think it’s a bit too much, but rationalize the salary bump as recompense for years of underpayment. Some think it’s a great value and would have paid more to keep him as the backstop for the next half decade. And generally when the tide of public opinion doesn’t break hard into either camp… the contract’s probably fair.

A case can be made that Molina is the most important player for the Cardinals in 2012. Gone are Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan. New pitching coach Derek Lilliquist has only a year of tenure with the major league club. So the most veteran ‘coach’ the Cardinals have with their pitching staff also happens to be a player. Continuity in general has taken a hit in professional sports, but the one place it’s effervescent is between the pitching and catching battery in baseball. It’s important that the staff and the starting catcher have chemistry and Molina has those relationships in spades.

In the bigger picture, while still hard to digest, this contract most likely means that Yadier Molina will be the favored son of the 2000s and 2010s when we’re all very old people. We’ll talk about Edmonds, Rolen, Carpenter, sure, but all of those men either started or finished their careers in other cities, taking a slight big of luster off their ‘Cardinaldom’.

We know the deal with Pujols. He chased the money and cashed out with the team. And while 15 years from now the Cardinals will most certainly retire his number, fete him with all sorts of made-up awards and fancy banquets welcoming him ‘home’, it’s all going to be tainted with what happened in the winter of 2011.

Molina, on the other hand, was a raised by the Cardinals, won (at least) two championships and played out his career as the slightly pudgy, always loveable masked man. He got paid handsomely, yes. But he got that money to be the front for the franchise. Matt Holliday may be a better player. Adam Wainwright might be a more valuable player. But Molina is now, and for the foreseeable future THE player that Cardinals know is universally loved.

He and Pujols are close friends. But as time marches on, the decisions these 2 men made months apart sealed their places in the pantheon of Cardinals.

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