Career year gives Cardinals catcher first top 5 finish; Posey wins honor
By Jenifer Langosch
ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina, already the most decorated Cardinals player this awards season, didn't add more hardware to his growing collection on Thursday. But he did earn his first top-five finish in the National League Most Valuable Player Award vote.Capping a career season, Molina placed only behind San Francisco's Buster Posey, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen for the MVP Award, which was presented to Posey on Thursday evening."It's good," Molina said, shortly after learning the news of his fourth-place finish. "I was happy for the season that I had and am happy to be between those names. That made my day. I want to congratulate Buster Posey because he deserves it. Catching is a tough position. To put up those numbers like he did, it's great. It makes me feel like I need to get even better to keep up with him."Voting for the NL MVP Award was done at the end of the regular season by 32 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, two from each league city. Voters submitted their top 10 players. Posey, 25, was listed first on 27 of the 32 ballots, second on four and third on one of the 32 ballots for a score of 422. That's based on a system rewarding 14 points for a first-place vote, nine for second, eight for third and on down to one point for a 10th-place vote. Braun, the 2011 winner, received three first-place votes and was the runner-up with 285 points. McCutchen's 245 points were enough for him to finish just ahead of Molina, who tallied 241 points. Asked if he had ever dreamed about even entering the MVP discussion, Molina said, "Not that far, not an MVP." He then added: "I take pride in everything I do. I worked hard to have a great year."Molina received two first-place votes (both from writers in the New York chapter) and placed in the top four on 29 ballots. In all, the veteran catcher was listed on 31 ballots; the only omission came from the North County (Calif.) Times' John Maffei, who did give Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig his seventh-place vote. Craig finished 19th overall. Also receiving recognition in the voting were outfielders Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran, who placed 11th and 26th, respectively. Molina, who had never finished higher than 21st in an MVP vote, led the Cardinals with a career-high .315 batting average in 2012. He had a career-high 22 homers and 76 RBIs, in addition to collecting 28 doubles and stealing 12 bases. Molina's batting average ranked fourth in the NL, behind Posey, McCutchen and Braun. His .373 on-base percentage was eighth best. The offensive credentials are easily discernible. Harder to measure, but hardly to be discounted, is the job Molina does on defense. He is lauded for the work he puts in with the pitching staff, and Molina ranked second in the Majors by throwing out 48 percent of attempted basestealers. With three more pickoffs this season, Molina now has 45 in his career, the most among catchers since 2004. Though tough to quantify his full impact behind the plate, Molina has swept the defensive awards handed out at his position this fall. He recently won his fifth straight Rawlings Gold Glove Award and captured the NL's Platinum Glove Award, recognizing the top defender regardless of position, for the second straight season. He added a Fielding Bible Award and Wilson Sporting Goods defensive award to his collection, as well. For Molina, the defensive recognition is hardly a new phenomenon. Rather, it's been Molina's development as a hitter that has made him one of the NL's elite players. "I got more mature," Molina said on Thursday, when asked to account for his jump in offensive success. "I have more experience. I know myself even better. That helped. When you have good coaching on your side, that helps, too."The leap in improvement began in 2011, when he led the club in average (.305) and reached a double-digit home run total (14) for the first time in his career. Molina took another step forward in all aspects this season, despite playing the most taxing of all positions. He hit better than .300 against both right-handed and left-handed pitchers and posted a .321 batting average with runners in scoring position. Molina is the first catcher in franchise history to lead the club in batting average in consecutive seasons. By signing Molina to a contract extension during Spring Training, the club is not at risk of losing its backstop anytime soon. Molina is signed through at least 2017. He will make $14 million next season.