For the second time this season, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina left the team to spend time in Puerto Rico. Shouldn’t he be putting baseball first?
On Saturday, the Cardinals put Yadier Molina on the restricted list for “business matters,” a vague description for an odd situation. Apparently, Molina wanted to attend the potential championship-winning game of the Vaqueros de Bayamon, the Puerto Rican league basketball team he owns. (The team did indeed win the title Saturday night.)
Congratulations to the team and its owner, Molina, but should that really have been his priority when the franchise paying him $10 million this season to play baseball is battling for a division title? Sure, he’s just missing two games, and he wasn’t going to start one of them, and it’s most likely an unpaid leave, which is typically how restricted list leave is handled. But what message is being sent to Molina and the team?
Yes, Molina has been a consistent positive force for the Cardinals for nearly two decades. His defense, excellent abilities at handling a pitching staff, and solid offensive contributions have been a key factor in a long string of successful seasons, including two World Series-winning campaigns. But nobody should be bigger than the team, and that seems to be the situation here.
Something similar happened earlier this year, when Molina was back home in Puerto Rico rehabbing a knee injury, a knee that was healthy enough to allow him to kick a basketball in frustration during one of his team’s games. It was the first of what appear to be repeated cases of divided loyalties for the long-time Cardinals stalwart.
Retirement is coming soon for one of St. Louis’ all-time great players. Ideally, a deep postseason run will precede that retirement, allowing not just Molina but also Albert Pujols – the player with the second-most total bases in MLB history – to finish their careers with a memorable flourish. While Pujols is making the most of his last several weeks in a Cardinals uniform, Molina seemingly is getting some retirement practice in before actually reaching retirement.
Here’s hoping St. Louis’ long-time catcher comes back Monday and sticks around for the rest of the season, a season that, if things work out well, could extend into November.