As Yadier Molina continues to dazzle at the World Baseball Classic, talks of whether he will sign an extension with the Cardinals and thereby retire where his career began are heating up. Here’s how Derrick Goold put it in his latest online chat:
Question: Do you see Yadier Molina with the Cardinals for the remainder of his career?
Goold: Makes too much sense for it not to happen. The only catch is whether he just doesn’t see playing time that he wants with the Cardinals, or has some level of concern that he’ll just share the position.
The extension should happen because Molina is one of the more iconic players in franchise history, and he still has a few years left of good baseball to give. From his standpoint though, if making the Baseball Hall of Fame means something to him, and I have every reason to suspect that it does, I wonder if retiring a Cardinal would give him a boost in that regard.
Molina already has a compelling yet complicated case. Jay Jaffe’s JAWS currently has him on the outside looking in. However, I think he should be a Hall of Famer. I believe in that pitcher whisperer pseudo-magic stuff as well as some of the other qualities he’s often credited for yet aren’t quite quantifiable with the ever-evolving understanding of catcher value. I could very well be wrong for believing this.
I also have this idea in my head that staying with one team for an entire career helps a player with the Hall of Fame voters. And I absolutely could be wrong for believing this. But for a fringe candidate like Molina (I call him a “fringe” candidate when he easily could sail through on the first ballot or not come close – it will likely be one of the more interesting, hard-to-peg votes of our time), it certainly seems like it could help from a brand standpoint, right? Sort of like how Derek Jeter is going to coast into the Hall of Fame in a few years with more ease than he likely would had his career been divvied up between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks, in which case, he would still be inducted, just maybe not with 95 percent of the vote. That’s the hypothesis I’m working on here.
Of the 220 MLB players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, here are the ones who spent their entire career with one franchise:
Yankees: Earle Combs, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto;
Dodgers: Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson;
Giants: Carl Hubbell, Travis Jackson, Mel Ott, Bill Terry, Ross Youngs;
Red Sox: Bobby Doerr, Jim Rice, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski;
Pirates: Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Pie Traynor;
Indians: Bob Feller, Addie Joss, Bob Lemon;
White Sox: Luke Appling, Red Faber, Ted Lyons;
Orioles: Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken, Brooks Robinson;
Reds: Johnny Bench, Bid McPhee, Barry Larkin;
Tigers: Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline;
Cardinals: Bob Gibson, Stan Musial;
Astros: Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell;
Royals: George Brett;
Cubs: Ernie Banks;
Phillies: Mike Schmidt;
Padres: Tony Gwynn;
Senators: Walter Johnson;
Twins: Kirby Puckett;
Brewers: Robin Yount.
That’s a total of 50 players, almost 23 percent. If that’s a higher number than you thought it would be, you aren’t alone. On the other hand, teams have multiple incentives to make sure Hall of Fame caliber-types stick around, and only a few of these players’ career occurred during the modern free agency era. Still, 23 percent is a lot so maybe there’s something here.
The three catchers on the list are Roy Campanella, Bill Dickey, and Johnny Bench (Yogi Berra’s nine plate appearances with the Mets in 1965 left him out). They aren’t easy to compare to Molina because they played in a different era and one is often considered the greatest catcher of all time. The closest Molina has to contemporaries in the Hall of Fame are Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez, both of whom spent their careers with multiple teams. Piazza is probably the greatest offensive player at the position, and Rodriguez suited up for a remarkable 21 seasons and accumulated more awards, stats, and acclaim than Molina will upon retirement. Again, not very helpful.
If you want to look for a (sort of) contemporary who wasn’t inducted, you don’t have to look too far. Jorge Posada was on the ballot for the first time this year but fell off with just 3.8 percent of the vote. Posada spent his entire career in the Bronx, and had a better JAWS score than Molina. Unlike Molina, Posada never had the “glue” reputation that Molina owns. Nevertheless, it would be hard to understand a world where Posada can’t manage to stay on the ballot for more than one year while Molina eclipses 75 percent.
Lastly, spending an entire career with one franchise didn’t help Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, or at least it didn’t help them enough. And no one cares that Willie Mays and Hank Aaron spent their last few seasons wearing funny looking jerseys. So to answer the initial question, would staying with the Cardinals for his entire career help Molina make the Hall of Fame, I’m going to err on the side of “I really have no idea, but probably not.”
Oh well. Extend him anyway.