Given how Yadier Molina's peers spent chunks of the past two days raining praise on his defensive ability, and how he's transformed and set standards at the catcher position over his 15-year career, it was notable that Molina's most recent All-Star appearance came without strapping on any gear.Molina entered as
Given how Yadier Molina's peers spent chunks of the past two days raining praise on his defensive ability, and how he's transformed and set standards at the catcher position over his 15-year career, it was notable that Molina's most recent All-Star appearance came without strapping on any gear.
Molina entered as a pinch-hitter for the National League in the fifth inning and flew out to deep center in his lone at bat in Tuesday's 89th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, which the American League won, 8-6, in 10 innings. Molina raised his hands to his head in disbelief as Michael Trout settled under his long drive to the warning track.
The stormy conditions at Nationals Park contributed to Molina's surprise: He struck the first-pitch fastball from Jose Berrios at 100.6 mph and a 31 degree launch angle, per Statcast™. Such contact goes for hits 72 percent of the time.
Molina has typically avoided such misfortune in his All-Star career. Tuesday marked the second time in seven All-Star appearances (he did not appear in two games he was selected for) that Molina did not register a hit.
In all, Molina is 5-for-9 with a home run and two runs scored in his career in the Midsummer Classic. His .556 average ranks second all-time among players with at least nine All-Star plate appearances. Only Hall of Fame center fielder Richie Ashburn, who hit .600 in four All-Star games, hit at a better clip.
Molina reflected on his string of Midsummer Classics during Monday's media day.
"My advice [to younger players] would be to enjoy it," Molina said. "These things happen fast."
Molina was lifted for pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar in the seventh. He was the only Cardinals player eligble to participate; Miles Mikolas was selected, but departed the festivities to attend a family matter in his hometown of Jupiter, Fla.
Willson Contreras and J.T. Realmuto, both of whom were teenagers when Molina debuted in 2004, split catching duties for the NL.
Molina and Contreras, the outspoken catcher of the rival Cubs, have clashed in the past. But Molina's influence is perhaps more noticeable in Contreras than in any other current backstop. The athletic, fiery Contreras has earned a reputation for his aggressive style behind the plate, where he moves lithely, commonly throws behind runners and is known for his elite arm strength.
Such are the skills that made Molina synonymous with the position, and have fueled recent debate over his future Hall of Fame candidacy. His appearance Tuesday night did nothing to hurt it: Molina's ninth All-Star selection with the Cardinals tied him with Jose Pujols and Bob Gibson among the franchise ranks.
Only eight catchers in Major League history have earned more All-Star appearances at the position. Seven are enshrined in Cooperstown.
On Monday, Molina was asked how he felt about being compared to Hall of Famers.
"I don't like to think about it right now, but it's in the back of my mind," he said. "Obviously you have that in the back of your mind. It's great to be on the lists with those names. But right now I'm concentrated on winning games."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.