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How Cardinals catchers have fared at 34

A lot of people don't seem to think that Yadier Molina is going to hold up as a starting catcher until the end of the contract extension he just signed with the Cardinals.

Molina is 29, so that means he'll be 34 when the last year of his deal takes place. So, here is a look at how some other Cardinals catchers performed at that stage of their careers:

Ted Simmons played 132 games as a 34 year old with a .269 batting average and 52 batted in for the Brewers. The bad news is that he was all but done behind the plate by this point of his career. In 1984 Simmons spent the bulk of his time -- 77 games -- as a designated hitter. When he played the field, 37 games were at first base and 14 at third base. Simba never caught more than 15 games at year at the age of 33.

Tim McCarver was 34 in 1976 and he played 90 games for the Phillies after getting into only 59 ballgames the year before. A total of 41 of those games were spent behind the plate. He batted .277 with three homers.

Darrell Porter spent his age 34 season with the Rangers where he hit .265 with 12 homers -- in only 65 games. He made 23 starts as catcher and 19 as designated hitter.

Walker Cooper hit .258 with 20 home runs during his age 34 season in 1958. And he was far from being finished as a player. He would go on to play until he was 42 in a second stint with the Cardinals at the end of the line. He started 108 games at catcher in his age 34 season and started 88 or more three times after that. Unlike the other catchers on this list, Cooper didn't spend time at other positions to save his legs.

Mike Matheny played 134 games in his age 34 season, 2005. He hit .242, which was three points higher than his career batting average. Unfortunately for Matheny, it would be his second last year as an active player. Because of concussions, he was forced to the disabled list after 47 games in 2006 and he retired still physically capable of doing his job well.

Tom Pagnozzi lost his starting job as St. Louis catcher in his age 34 season. He was limited to 25 games and he hit only .220. It was his second-last season before retirement.

Tony Pena was two years past the Cardinals when he played his age 34 season with the Red Sox. He hit .231 in 141 games. He started 132 of them behind the plate. Pena's last year as a starter came when he was 36 -- and he batted only .181 for Boston. Pena played a handful of games at first and third base. But it was nothing significant and he had to settle in his last five seasons for being a backup catcher and pinch hitter.

History shows the prospects aren't good for a 34-year-old catcher. But, if there is a bright side, it is that the training programs current major leaguers use seem to extend their careers beyond what the old timers could manage. Matheny, Molina's predecessor with St. Louis, offers the most hope for Yadi's future. If not for the concussion issues, Matheny might have played for several more years.

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