A man who wears a mask the majority of the time we see him may have just become the new face of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise.
Yadier Molina, who broke into the big leagues with the Cardinals back in 2004, will keep the bird on the bat logo across his chest through the 2017 season, with an option for 2018, at which time Molina would be 36 years old. The five-year extension is expected to pay the game’s best defensive catcher $75 million dollars, with a $15 million option for a 6th year.
And with that, Cardinals fans, you can drop your guards. You will not have to spend the next 10 months fretting over whether or not another one of St. Louis’ baseball icons will leave the team at the altar.
In the wake of Albert Pujols’ abrupt move to the Los Angeles Angels, Cardinals general manager, John Mozeliak, insists he didn’t feel any added pressure to get a deal done for Molina. If he really didn’t, he probably should have. Molina is the single most admired, appreciated, and beloved member of the Cardinals organization right now. Cardinals fans in minor league cities from Palm Beach to Memphis watched him grow up. Fans in St. Louis watched him persevere at the plate, where he started his first season as the Cardinals’ starter in an 0 for 25 slump before eventually breaking through. His confidence at the plate continued to rise, and eventually Molina turned himself from an offensive liability into one of the best hitting catchers in the game today. In 2011, he hit .305 with a career high 14 HRs and 65 RBI.
Along the way, Molina provided Cardinal fans with exhilarating moments, from game-changing pickoff throws to his game-winning home run in the 9th inning of Game 7 in the 2006 NLCS. Molina has been a key part of two World Series Championship teams, and is a four-time Gold Glove.
With Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols out of the picture, this is now Molina’s team. He and Chris Carpenter share the title as longest tenured Cardinal, both joining the team in 2004. But Carpenter is in the twilight of his career, and his current 2-year deal may very well be his last.
So yes, he wears a mask, but Yadi is the new face of the franchise.