With spring training games beginning at the end of the week, we are inching closer to the start of the 2014 season. We know the Cardinals are talented and deep and poised for success again this year, and that was even before learning they have eight of MLB Network’s Top 100 players in the game right now.
Of course, right? Yadi puts the bad-ass in BAMF, without a doubt.
Hearing the high praise for him during the MLB Network’s Top 100 Right Now countdown reminded me of that yet again, without hearing Dan Plesac say he’s hands-down the best catcher overall in the game of baseball right now and that the success of the entire Cardinals pitching staff — starters and relievers — is because of Yadi.
And that brings me to my biggest fear for 2014: Yadi getting hurt.
Injuries are unpredictable, as we Cardinals fans know all too well from experience, and an injury to any other member of the Cards is something they could probably handle without missing a beat. Jaime Garcia is having shoulder trouble after coming back from last season’s surgery? If it’s long-term, that just opens up the door for — take your pick — Joe Kelly, Tyler Lyons or Carlos Martinez in the rotation. The team has extraordinary depth in pitching, and certainly enough depth in the outfield and even the infield.
But not at catcher — and nothing against Tony Cruz at all. He’s a little BAMF himself. Remember when it was revealed he played the entire time Yadi was on the disabled list last season with a stress fracture in his throwing arm?
Yet of course he’s not Yadi, because no one is.
Yadi’s influence is so tremendous that it shows up in the win-loss column for the team too. Courtesy of MLB Network’s Top 100 Right now, in 2013 the Cardinals were 83-46 with Yadi in lineup and 14-19 when he wasn’t. That obviously includes his stint on the DL with a sprained knee from late July through mid-August. With Yadi behind the plate, the team ERA was 3.16. Without him, it was 4.29. Opponents hit .246 when Yadi played, .257 when he did not.
He’s extraordinarily durable, as we know. Over the past five seasons, he’s played from 136 to 140 games each season — all while increasing his offensive production and becoming a top-five NL MVP finalist. But, like everyone, he’s not getting any younger. He’ll turn 32 on the final day of the season’s first half, July 13.
I hope that my fear is needless and that Yadi will be Yadi once again an MVP finalist — or even MVP — leading the Cardinals to another NL Central title and long run through October to the World Series and championship No. 12. Plus I know there’s no use worrying over things I can’t control.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not saying a little prayer for his good health from time to time. Because there’s only one heart and soul of a team, and Yadier Molina is without a doubt that for the St. Louis Cardinals. Without him in the lineup, they are not the same.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates and like us on Facebook if you don’t already.