Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Yadi and Ozzie
Yadier Molina, the Cardinals' catcher, is not-so-secretly starting to look like a Hall-of-Famer. He is, by acclamation, the best fielding catcher in the majors, and has been for nearly a decade. Want to know who I compare him to?
Ozzie Smith. The Wizard of Oz, the Cardinals' star shortstop of the 1980s and 1990s, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Do you think I'm kidding? Consider:
After his age 31 season, Ozzie had 6 All-Star game appearances, 7 Gold Gloves, 1 World Series, and career statistics that included 13 HRs, 374 RBIs, 1169 hits, and a .247 lifetime batting average. His hitting improved in his later years, and he ended up with over 2400 hits.
Yadi is in his age 31 season. With seventy games to go, his lifetime statistics include 84 HRs, 515 RBIs, 1132 hits, and a .284 lifetime average. He has 5 All-Star game appearances, will almost undoubtedly win his 6th Gold Glove this year, and already has 2 World Series championships.
Oh, and he has a chance this year to do some things Ozzie never did -- win a batting title and win an MVP. I would say he's a good bet for the former, and, at this stage, close to a lock for the latter.
Will he be able to have the longevity Ozzie had that enabled him to play until he was past 40? Probably not. Catchers don't last that long. But I would argue that, for that very reason, Yadi will be a Hall-of-Famer someday. Catching, even more than shortstop, is the most important defensive position on the field. And no one has ever done it better than Yadi. (Sorry, Mr. Bench!)
If Yadi plays, say, six more years, and ends up with 2,000 hits, 150 or so HRs, and 1,000 plus RBIs, plus probably 10 plus Gold Gloves, 8-10 All-Star appearances, and 3 (or, God willing, more) World Series championships, he has to go in, like Ozzie, on the first ballot, doesn't he?