The players eligible for induction into the 2024 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame were revealed to the public on Nov. 20, featuring players such as slugger Adrian Beltre, speed demon Jose Reyes and St. Louis Cardinals fan favorite Matt Holliday. But the most fascinating case will be that of former Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, and how the voting for him shakes out should be of great interest to Cardinals fans.
Many Cardinals supporters, including yours truly, have vigorously defended the case for Yadier Molina to be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he is eligible in 2028, and how Mauer does on the ballot could foreshadow the way evaluators look at Molina when his time comes.
A catcher has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame since 2017 when Ivan Rodriguez was a first-ballot inductee after appearing on 76% of voters' ballots. Neither Molina nor Mauer had a career that matched Rodriguez's, but Mauer will be the first catcher to warrant a serious Hall of Fame case since Rodriguez.
Although Mauer and Molina excelled in different areas, Mauer's candidacy will be an intriguing litmus test to see how catchers are viewed given that there has never been a seriously debatable Hall of Fame case for a catcher since Statcast and framing metrics came into place.
Mauer had a more productive career offensively than Molina did, hitting for a career .306 average and producing an offensive WAR of 53, according to Baseball Reference. Defensively, Molina prevailed, with a defensive WAR of 28, which is the same number as his offensive WAR. Mauer, by contrast, had a defensive WAR of 3. According to this FanGraphs article, Mauer and Molina were both strong pitch framers.
Molina was also the model of durability throughout his time in the major leagues. Mauer was plagued with concussions in the latter half of his career, and he spent his last five seasons playing primarily at first base, not seeing a single inning behind the plate after 2013. Molina was one of a kind in his ability to don the tools of ignorance for his entire 19-year career.
Evaluators will weigh whether Mauer's position props up his offensive numbers despite his merely adequate defensive abilities, whereas with Molina, they will determine if his defensive abilities and longevity at a harsh, unforgiving spot on the diamond could offset his batting stats, which, while impressive in Molina's prime, did not reach those of many other Hall of Fame catchers.
Mauer's case for the Hall of Fame is going to be fascinating to watch unfold, and for Cardinals fans, it might be a hint of what to expect when Molina becomes eligible for a plaque of his own.