Just before the All-Star break, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina suffered a break that many fans thought would tear the Cardinals apart.
Molina tore a ligament in his right thumb, putting him out for 8-12 weeks and ending his regular season. He might return if the Cardinals reach the postseason, but Molina’s loss would likely kill any postseason hopes for the Cardinals, right?
The way the team has played, the answer might be wrong.
I first thought Molina’s injury would absolutely tear apart the Cardinals. Not only is he one of the most reliable hitters who has been around for the entire successful run of the past decade, but he knows the pitching staff and its strengths and weaknesses inside and out. Surely no one else can duplicate that success rate, right?
It will be very hard to replicate what Molina means to a roster, but let’s face reality. Not only has Molina’s loss not crumbled the Cardinals, but the team is still winning.
In fact, just before the All-Star break, the Cardinals caught the Milwaukee Brewers and tied them for first place in the NL Central.
This doesn’t mean the Cardinals are out of the woods. Even though they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday for the second time in this series, the Cardinals have to be looking over their shoulders. Have you seen that NL Central lately?
Not only are Milwaukee and St. Louis in the mix, the Pittsburgh Pirates have snapped to life after a lackluster start. The Cincinnati Reds have overcome injuries to Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips and held on to a contending spot in the division.
Don’t look now, but things could get very interesting. The Cards did claim George Kottaras off waivers from the Cleveland Indians, and his tendency to hit home runs could help revive a lackluster offense. Kottaras won’t find a 40-homer streak all of a sudden, but the confines of Busch Stadium could help him drive a few out of the park.
If there is one thing the Cardinals will learn from this — not that they necessarily need to learn a lesson, because they have been good at filling holes — it is the day Molina will not be on the roster is fast approaching. Soon Molina will call it quits or his skills will decline.
The team does have some catching depth, including Kottaras and Tony Cruz. They won’t approach what Molina means to the roster, but it isn’t an outright disaster to have these two on the roster.
For now, the Cardinals are holding on to a contending spot. That’s better than what some fans thought would happen.