St. Louis Cardinals: Please put the Cardinals in the Puerto Rico series
After seeing the success with the Puerto Rico series, I think the St. Louis Cardinals should be considered for the event next season.
MLB wrapped up their first Puerto Rico series, featuring the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, with rousing success. Sell out crowds flooded San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium to get a glimpse of their fellow countrymen playing big league baseball. Puerto Ricans Francisco Lindor, Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario, and Roberto Perez headlined the event. Given the success of the event, I hope MLB considers the St. Louis Cardinals as a team to play in the Puerto Rico Series next season, should it continue.
Here are a couple of reasons why MLB needs to put the St. Louis Cardinals in the Puerto Rico series next season:
There is only one reason I would ever want the St. Louis Cardinals to play in Puerto Rico, and his name is Yadier Molina. If you don’t already know it, Molina is from Puerto Rico and is arguably the island’s most well-known baseball player currently. That’s saying a lot when you have names like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Javier Baez to compete with right now.
But even then, the young superstars from the island nation draw their inspiration from Molina. That’s why they call him “El Lider” or the leader in English. If you need proof, go back and watch who led the charge for the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic.
To give you an idea of just how popular Molina is among his fellow Puerto Ricans, the Puerto Rican newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, went to the streets to see how the locals felt about the MLB being in Puerto Rico. They were met with an overwhelming positive response, but asked for one thing: Yadier Molina. Countless times they have seen Molina don the national team’s uniform, but he’s never donned the St. Louis Cardinals uniform in Puerto Rico.
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But it’s not just his popularity on the island that would generate the volume, millions of Puerto Ricans also live on the U.S. mainland, including my family and me. We Puerto Ricans follow the other Puerto Rican players whether they are on our team or not and root for their success. I haven’t even mentioned the thousands of St. Louis Cardinals fans who would also tune in to watch Yadier Molina play in Puerto Rico. But you know it will happen, and so does MLB.
And of course, for pure selfish reasons as well, as a fellow Puerto Rican and St. Louis Cardinals fan, I want to see my favorite player play “en la isla del encanto.” When Molina announced he would end his playing days with the St. Louis Cardinals after his current deal is up, I took it pretty hard. Knowing my, and many others out there, favorite player’s time was almost up was discouraging. Then I thought about what he meant to me and other young Puerto Ricans like me in St. Louis and around the world.
Because of his announcement, I immediately wrote about what it was like to see Molina from my eyes. Molina is a figure beyond baseball for me and there wouldn’t be a more fitting way to see his playing days dwindle but on the field where the greatest Puerto Rican player ever known, Roberto Clemente, once stood. That pride for him, and for Puerto Rico is something that we share and will never die.
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But this just isn’t about the MLB or me. Imagine what it would feel like for Molina to play in front of thousands of fans in Puerto Rico. Imagine the pride he felt to see his fellow countrymen play in front of their families and in front of thousands seeking some relief from the hardships of Hurricane Maria.
Then you see moments like what happened with Francisco Lindor.
I can’t imagine what Molina must have felt watching Francisco Lindor hitting a home run in front of their fellow Puerto Ricans. Just thinking about Molina celebrating a home run or even a Cardinal victory in front of thousands who view him as an all-time great in Puerto Rican baseball is enough for me to ask MLB to please find a way to get this done. Knowing Molina’s love his country, I know he was full of pride for Lindor and the other Puerto Ricans on the Twins and Indians as they got to celebrate baseball in their homes.
And I can’t forget Berrios’ performance for the Twins in the second game of the series. His performance just showed how far he has come in his own development with the Twins organization. For him to pitch a gem in front of his family and friends was a dream come true as well. I know Yadi is happy for him as he guided Berrios in the WBC last year as well.
If there was a way for MLB to pay tribute to one of its greatest this generation of baseball has seen as he nears the end of his, I can think of no better way of honoring Yadier Molina and the St. Louis Cardinals with an opportunity to play in Puerto Rico.
Easy opponents to pick from
One of the biggest components of the Puerto Rico series was to make sure the teams playing both had a representative of the island nation. The Indians had Lindor and Roberto Perez as representatives, and the Twins had Jose Berrios and Eddie Rosario. While there are not as many Puerto Rican players in the MLB as there used to be, the MLB has two easy selections in opponents for the St. Louis Cardinals.
It’s the most logical and natural choice for MLB for a couple of reasons. The first being the Cubs have their own Puerto Rican star in Javier Baez. The slick fielding infielder is one of the game’s rising stars and has his own popularity among Puerto Ricans and Cubs’ fans. Another aspect to consider is the Puerto Rican population in Chicago.
There are roughly 100,000 Puerto Ricans living in the Chicago area, and I know they would tune into see Yadi and Javy battle it out on the diamond. Not to mention, like St. Louis Cardinals fans, Cubs fans would also tune into seeing something like this because of Baez, which brings me to my next reason why MLB has an easy choice.
We are talking Cubs and Cardinals, the bread and butter for rivalries in the National League. You typically want meaningful games if you are traveling abroad, and there isn’t a better match you could find for the Puerto Rico series than this. What might push MLB further in this direction is how this year plays out between both teams. If the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs play each other evenly, unlike last year, then there is even more draw to matching them out there for two games.
Houston has their own Puerto Rican superstar in Carlos Correa. He was the first Puerto Rican ever selected number one overall in the MLB draft in 2012. Last year, he won a World Series championship with the Houston Astros. I don’t think there is a bigger star power combo than Molina and Correa in Puerto Rico right now.
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Fortunately, the timing is right for both teams. The Cardinals are scheduled to play the American League West division next season, and in past renditions, the teams have played a two and two series. This would be an ideal scenario for both teams as it is interleague play and doesn’t have any direct implications on the divisional play unlike the Cubs/Cardinals matchup.
There is also a good contingent of Puerto Ricans in Houston, similar to what you would find in St. Louis. So the attraction for the fans would be there as well. Plus, you could definitely build off the story line of two areas affected by hurricanes and the recovery efforts thus far after last year.
Would it work?
Okay, it can’t be as easy as I am making it sound. There are plenty of factors the MLB will need to consider before making a decision, and some of those decisions will need the teams’ blessing first. Many tried pointing out the factors that needed to be consider, as if I hadn’t already discussed them with my dad as we were watching the series over the last week (yes we even talked expansion team in Puerto Rico).
While both of the opponents for the Cardinals in Puerto Rico make absolute sense, think about the markets you are drawing from. Both Chicago and Houston are top-5 cities in total population and happen to be your last two World Series champions. So the hype surrounding them is still very real. Local TV stations will want to make sure they can get those games out to their populations for ratings instead of handing over two games to ESPN.
It also has an impact on who is losing the home games in this scenario. It would be very difficult to sell any of these three teams in losing potentially two home games in baseball centered areas they are. The two teams less likely to pay attention to that are the Cardinals and Astros, but Chicago is just a different market.
Outside of the money and TV, you also have to consider the travel for teams and the rest of the schedule. Personally, I think you just need to ask Twins and Indians’ players how they felt the trip and series was handled. If they are okay with that sort of thing, then I’m sure other players would be willing to do the same.
But overall, do I think this something that could feasibly happen? Absolutely, and it’s a no-brainer to me.
What do you think? Would you like to see Yadier Molina and the St. Louis Cardinals get a chance to play in Puerto Rico? Let me know in the comments below.