There is no doubt in any St. Louis Cardinals fan's mind that legendary catcher Yadier Molina is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. For some reason, there remain people around the game of baseball who have tried to debate that, or even that he is a Hall of Famer at all.
Recently on the site, J.T. Buchheit made the case that Cardinals fans should watch closely the way that voters handled the candidacy of former Twins' catcher Joe Mauer, and I thought he was spot on with that take. Seen as contemporaries for much of the 2000s and 2010s, Mauer was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility on Tuesday, and that should all but cement Molina's case for first-ballot induction as well.
Mauer, arguably one of the best offensive catchers we have ever seen, played from 2004-2018, posting a career 124 OPS+ while winning three Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, and the American League Most Valuable Player award in 2009. Although Mauer played 15 seasons, only 10 of those were as a primary catcher, and he was mostly a league-average hitter after transitioning to first base and designated hitter full-time. Had he remained at catcher following the 2013 season, he may not have played as long as he did, and his offensive numbers may have fallen even further.
Still, his 10-year run behind the plate was certainly worthy of a Hall of Fame nod, but I think it came as a surprise to some that he was able to make it in his first year of eligibility without the longevity behind the plate. When you look at Molina, he was the epitome of that.
Molina was behind the plate for 19 seasons at the Major League level, catching the fourth most games all-time, and did so as arguably the greatest defensive catcher and game-caller to ever play the game. While Molina's bat was not at the level of Mauer, he did maintain a 130 OPS+ from 2011-2013 in one of the greatest three-year stretches we have ever seen from a catcher. Molina is a nine-time Gold Glover, ten-time All-Star, and finished top-4 in MVP voting in both 2012 and 2013. He was the starting catcher for two World Series-winning clubs, and his impact on the field, especially in regards to a pitching staff, cannot be denied.
Molina will not be eligible for the Hall of Fame until 2028, but based on the way voters handled Joe Mauer, we should all expect him and Albert Pujols to go into Cooperstown together, on what will be a special day in Cardinals history.