The St. Louis Cardinals are in a tight spot when it comes to deciding how or if to use injured catcher Yadier Molina the rest of the 2014 post season.
Molina, a veteran of 11 seasons, left Game 2 of the National League Championship Series Monday with what he described as a stabbing pain in his side. He stood at the plate, unable to move, after hitting a double play ground ball. After the game it was revealed Molina strained his oblique. Yet, for now, the Redbirds have chosen not to disable Molina and replace him on their active roster of players eligible for NLCS and World Series play.
Could Molina truly be useful in such a compromised condition? Could he jeopardize his 2015 season or his career by trying to play in a diminished capacity? Are the Cardinals wasting a roster spot out of respect to Molina, trying to make him eligible to make a token appearance in the World Series, should the Redbirds make it?
Molina arguably has the most impressive post season resume in the Cardinals' fabled history.
Still in his prime, he holds the record for most post season games played at 86. That accomplishment might cause old school types to scoff, noting that there was no wild card play-in game until two years ago, no division series until less than two decades ago and the league championship series has only existed for 45 years.
True. But even the greatest of Redbirds legends can't top Molina's mark of playing in four World Series with St. Louis. Stan Musial also played in four Fall Classics in the 1940s as did lefty hurler "Wild" Bill Hallahan who compiled a 4-1 record and a 1.36 earned run average pitching in the 1926, '30, '31 and '34 World Series. No Cardinals player has ever played in five.
A good case can be made that it was a lot easier to get into the World Series before the multiple rounds of playoffs. Up until 1969 if you had the best record of the 8-10 teams in your league you got into the World Series. Now teams not only have to have one of the top records during the regular season, they have to wade their way through two rounds of play against other top teams to qualify.
As a fan, I'd love to see Molina get his fifth World Series. I'd love it even more if he could pull a Kirk Gibson moment and hobble off the bench to chip in a game-winning hit. But I wouldn't take a shot in the dark at those elusive goals at the potential cost of him worsening the injury and threatening several promising years of future.
The oblique muscles are a major component of swinging a baseball bat with authority. If Molina tears the muscles further and requires a long rehab -- or surgery -- there is no guarantee he'll come back quickly or as strong as he was before.
An oblique injury can also compromise a player's ability to throw a baseball hard. Molina, while he has made himself a good hitter, justifies his big paycheck because of his dominating defense. The Cardinals surely don't want to do anything to mess that up.
St. Louis was very fortunate to get a very capable catcher with a World Series win on his resume. They ought to use A.J Pierzynski and not risk Yadi's health.