On the eve of another impressive milestone, we celebrate what Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina have meant to the St. Louis Cardinals.
A lot has changed in baseball since 2006, but one constant for the St. Louis Cardinals has been the presence of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. Tonight will be the 300th time as starting pitcher and catcher that they take the field together in a regular season game. The foundation of my favorite team for practically my entire life, their incredible journey in Cardinal red deserves to be celebrated.
Chances are we’ll have both Waino and Yadi around for one more season in 2022, and I’m thrilled. I don’t know Cardinals baseball without them!
While Yadi made his debut in 2004, Waino didn’t make it to St. Louis until 2006. I was four when the Red Sox swept the 105-win Cardinals, so the memories of that loss aren’t too strong. In fact, outside of a few Albert Pujols home runs from the early 2000s, it is Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina where my baseball memory begins in earnest.
The 2006 NLCS was the duo’s coming out party. After Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen, the light-hitting Cardinals catcher stepped up to the plate and delivered. His stance is a bit wider, his face a little younger, but who knew at that moment how many more times we’d be lucky enough to see Yadi rounding first, hands in the air in celebration.
Of course, the bottom of that ninth inning is where Adam Wainwright made his first mark as a Cardinal. The rookie closer introduced Carlos Beltran to Uncle Charlie with the bases loaded, and in that instant a legend was born. I’ll always remember how he got Brandon Inge swinging to end the World Series, too. Waino’s never been a strikeout pitcher, and Yadi is not a power bat, but they both have their ways of getting things done in big moments.
Waino joined the rotation the following season, and for fifteen seasons now has pitched from atop the vaunted Cardinals starting staff. I remember being so angry when he lost out on the Cy Young in 2009 to Tim Lincecum. And in 2013 when he placed second to Clayton Kershaw, it made knocking out the Dodgers on their way to another World Series berth somehow sweeter. Now at 40, winning the NL pitcher of the month? He’s impossible not to root for.
While Waino has gone through many ups and downs, the consistency of Yadi has been spectacular. Nothing was more comforting than coming home from school each day to see number four in the starting lineup, leading the charge out of the dugout with confidence. It was one of the greatest honors I’ve had to write about Yadi’s 2,000 hit– somehow, someway, I got to comment on a piece of living history.
That’s the thing about Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina. I don’t think either has garnered the national recognition they deserve. If you ask me, or any other young Cardinal fan, two statues of Waino and Yadi should be built– one at Busch Stadium, and one that moves around the country as a reminder to the national audience of what greatness in baseball really looks like.
The calming presence of Waino and the intensity of Yadi are a perfect balance. They feed off each other and the city of St. Louis has thrived off their passion for the game Cardinal fans of every generation have their leaders, and I’m honored to have witnessed these two.
The competitors that Yadi and Waino are, I doubt that either one is happy to have the focus taken away from the playoff push. But tonight, even in a series with no room for error, they deserve to be celebrated.