MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

Yadi a tough player for Cardinals to replace

Out with oblique strain, catcher's October spark will be missed

Yadi a tough player for Cardinals to replace

The most valuable player for the Cardinals grounded into a double play against the Giants on Sunday at Busch Stadium during Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, and he barely left the batter's box. Yadier Molina dropped his hands to his knees. He looked as if he had been trampled by those Budweiser Clydesdales. Courtesy of Molina's swing, he strained the oblique muscle on his left side.

Afterward, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said exactly what he had to say to reporters about losing the bat, the glove, the arm, the guts and the leadership of his six-time All-Star catcher.

"It's hard for [the rest of the Cardinals players] not to hear what's being said nationally about this is the one guy that our club can't do without," Matheny said of Molina, who is a master at rising to the occasion when healthy.

Molina is a quick healer, but it could take anywhere from hours to days to weeks for the man they call Yadi to recover from an injury that tends to linger.

Even so, Matheny said, mostly out of necessity, "I think [the growing doubters regarding the Cardinals' chances of reaching the World Series] actually gives [Molina's teammates] a little spur. That insults the rest of the guys in that room. It's a great compliment to Yadi, as everybody knows how valuable he is and how much we appreciate what he does.

  Date Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 11 SF 3, STL 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 12 STL 5, SF 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14 SF 5, STL 4 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15 SF 6, STL 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 16 SF 6, STL 3 video

"But we do believe the fact that the other guys can step in and pick up the slack, especially when you're talking about the short period of time here that we just need to figure out how to get it done."

Well, it sounds good.

The truth is, Molina can't be replaced.

The numbers say so. According to the folks at Elias Sports Bureau, there are a slew of numbers that demonstrate Molina's significance to the Cardinals, starting with this: 60-46. That was their record during the regular season with Molina in the lineup. Plus, when he was behind the plate, the Cards' team ERA was 3.19. Without Molina during the regular season, St. Louis' record was 30-26, with a collective ERA of 4.07.

Actually, when you add those numbers to several I've yet to mention and then combine them with the good old-fashioned eyeball test, Molina becomes otherworldly for the Cardinals.

We've seen this before.

Baseball has a habit of producing magic men. In a flash, they become the undisputed leader of their team by finding ways to inspire everybody around them throughout a given season or even seasons.

Buster Posey comes to mind. He is the Giants' Molina in so many ways, and not just because he is a superlative catcher. All you need to know is, during Posey's rookie year of 2010, he did enough mythical things on offense and defense to push the Giants to a World Series championship. The next year, he missed most of the season due to a broken leg, but when he returned healthy and vibrant in '12, the Giants won another World Series championship.

Coincidence? Hardly. Just like the Red Sox couldn't slay the Curse of the Bambino until 2004, which was the year after David Ortiz arrived in town. Three years later, with Big Papi leading the way again, the Red Sox won another World Series. And then they returned to the top of baseball last year. Ortiz remained as the only Boston player around for all three titles.

Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera know that feeling. During the Yankees' latest dynasty featuring five World Series championships from 1996-2009, they were the only players who stayed throughout that run.

There was Kirk Gibson in 1988. Not only did he spur the Dodgers enough during the regular season to win NL MVP Award honors, but he used one swing of his bat and a memorable limp around the bases during that World Series to push the Dodgers toward the Commissioner's Trophy. Nine years earlier, Willie Stargell was "Pops," but he also was a baseball pied piper along the way to the Pirates "We are family" march from nowhere to their World Series title. And Reggie Jackson wasn't nicknamed "Mr. October" for nothing.

Molina is one of those guys, especially since he is St. Louis' Mr. Everything during this time of year.

For one, when Molina collected his 89th postseason hit Sunday, he surpassed Albert Pujols on the Cardinals' all-time list. Think about that. Now think about this: Only the Yanks have captured more World Series championships than the Cards, and this also is the franchise of Enos Slaughter, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Ozzie Smith.

You also can't forget about Stan Musial, and he was the last Cardinals player before Molina to play in the World Series four times (1942, '43, '44 and '46). Just so you know, Musial batted .256 in 23 postseason games, and Molina has a .290 average after 86 of them.

Here's more numbers for Molina: In 2006, he hit .308 in the NL Division Series, .348 in the NLCS and .412 in the World Series. Molina even clinched things for St. Louis during the seventh game in Detroit that year with a two-run homer against the Tigers in the top of the ninth inning.

In 2011, Molina hit .333 during both the NLCS and the World Series, including nine RBIs in the Fall Classic to help the Cardinals to another title. The following year, the Cards lost the NLCS to the Giants, but Molina went 11-for-28 (.393) with 12 total bases during that seven-game series.

The Cardinals need Molina, all right.

Badly.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.