The regular season is only two weeks old and Yadier Molina has set multiple new records. But on Wednesday, he will set a milestone that few have reached — his 2000th game behind the plate, with this one coming against the Washington Nationals.
It is perhaps fitting that it comes with Adam Wainwright, his longtime teammate, on the mound. And Wainwright, speaking to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, recently marveled at how Molina has remained so effective 17 years into his career.
“I mean — staying immortal like he always is?” Wainwright said. “Nothing he does surprises me. He’s a little heavier than he was last year, got a little more pop in the bat. You can tell he’s feeling good, moving well.”
Molina, 38, has an impressive portfolio of career statistics. He has won nine Gold Gloves and aspires to lead the league in innings behind the plate. He has a 25.4 defensive wins above replacement which ranks second since 2004. And he has caught over 75 percent of the 2,609 games the Cardinals have played since he debuted.
But Molina’s impact extends far beyond numbers. He has controlled the pitching staff and given them stability behind the plate for almost two decades. He has been a leader in the clubhouse and been a mentor to many young players. And he has allowed Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals’ prized offseason acquisition, to ease into St. Louis and not have to immediately step into a prominent leadership position.
Woody Williams, the first pitcher to throw to Molina, has noticed it from afar — and told Goold just how much he has meant to the team, especially the pitching staff.
“If I’m one of those pitchers on that staff, especially one who has struggled in recent years, I’m a bobblehead,” Williams said. “My head is just going up and down on the mound. He puts down a sign, and I’m throwing that pitch.”