We’ve spent most of the first 100 games talking about catcher Yadier Molina being indispensable, and being the Most Valuable Player in the National League. Obviously, we’ll get a great gauge of his value over the next two or so weeks because he was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with inflammation in his right knee.
Molina has missed time before, even with inflammation to his right knee, and the Cardinals were able to circle the wagons and play well. Back in 2005, he was placed on the DL with a fractured left hand, missing July 8-Aug. 15 with a fractured left hand. In his absence, the Cardinals went 20-13 for a .606 winning percentage. With him that year, the 100-win Redbirds had a .620 winning percentage, going 80-49.
From May 30-June 28, 2007, Molina was shelved with a broken wrist. Without him for 25 games, the club went 13-12 for a .520 winning percentage. With Molina that year, the Cards were 65-72 for a .474 winning percentage, so they were better without Yadi than with him.
At the conclusion of the 2010 season, Molina experienced inflammation in his troublesome right knee. As a matter of fact, he told Fox Sports Midwest, “I was trying to play because the team was in the fight for the race, but it was getting worse and worse and it’s not the smart thing to keep doing. It’s tough to sit but you have to take care of yourself.”
With Molina in 2010, the Cards went 77-74 for a .510 winning percentage. Down the stretch without him, they were 9-3 from Sept. 22 until the end of the season, an .818 percentage.
Those numbers illustrate that the Cardinals of those seasons were capable of winning without Molina. But those teams were much different. Molina wasn’t the league’s MVP, and the Cardinal MVP those years was Albert Pujols, who was the NL MVP in ’05, finished ninth in ’07 and second in 2010. Pujols was able – at that point in his career – to carry a club that was missing a key piece. That player apparently isn’t on hand in 2013. Matt Holliday is in the midst of a three-year decline, and his power numbers and overall production are down again. Allen Craig has been a great hitter, but isn’t an impact home run hitter. David Freese is having his worst power year, and Carlos Beltran is a wonderful complementary piece, but isn’t a centerpiece player.
No, the centerpiece of this franchise now is Molina himself. Just like the Giants when they lost Buster Posey in 2011, or like the Red Sox when Manny Ramirez left, the Cardinals are going to suffer with Molina out.
After losing their fourth in a row in Pittsburgh, the Cardinals trail the Pirates by 2 1/2 games, but more importantly lead Cincinnati by just 3 1/2 in the wild card race. With three games on the horizon in Cincinnati, the Redbirds simply need to stay afloat, keep bailing water and try to maintain a playoff spot. Over the next 38 days, they have nine games with Pittsburgh and nine with Cincinnati. They hold their destiny in their own hands. But the key is going to be the next two weeks. Every game that they can win without Molina, whether it be three, five or seven, is a bonus. Don’t expect much until he’s back.