Quit whining Yadi, Johnny Bench will always be better than you, period!
Yadier Molina was not among the finalist for this year’s Gold Glove Award. Cincinnati Reds‘ Tucker Barnhart, Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jacob Stallings and Chicago Cubs Willson Contreras made the cut this year. Molina lashed out on social media, bemoaning the fact he wasn’t included. He even invoked the name of Johnny Bench. Molina is not fit to strap on Bench’s chest protector.
There’s some arguments in sports that I’ll entertain; is LeBron James better than Michael Jordan? No, but I can see why some people might think that. Is Tom Brady better than Joe Montana? He’s got more rings, but give me Montana each time. The one argument that needs to evaporate, and quickly, is Yadier Molina’s comparing himself to the great Johnny Bench.
In case you’re unaware, Molina complained that he deserved to be among the three finalist for the NL Gold Glove Award. In his rant, Molina complains that Major League Baseball left him out of the running because the league doesn’t want him to match the 10 Gold Gloves owned by Bench. Molina currently has nine, and at 38-years-old, is likely to stay put.
Before we tackle any sort of debate surrounding Yadier Molina and Johnny Bench, let’s look at this year’s statistics; which were the criteria for the pandemic-shortened season as pointed out by the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale.
CBS Sports did a wonderful job of illustrating the holes in Molina’s argument. In terms of defensive WAR, according to FanGraphs, Yadier Molina is behind all FOUR of his NL Central counterparts. So, to put it in perspective, not only is Molina not the best defensive catcher in the National League, he’s not even the best defensive catcher in the Central Division. Excuse me, while I chuckle.
In terms of defensive runs saved, which is a big statistic used to evaluate defensive performances nowadays, Molina is tied for seventh with Contreras and Omar Narvaez. Reds backstop Tucker Barnhart led the National League in that category with nine DRS. Even better, Molina led the NL in errors by a catcher with five. He had all of one error over a 162-game season in 2019. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Now, since we’ve dispelled the notion that Yadier Molina does not belong in the conversation of a Gold Glove catcher this season, let’s examine the reasons as to why he doesn’t belong in the same breath with Cincinnati Reds great Johnny Bench.
Johnny Bench is a 14-time All-Star. Yadier Molina has been to the Midsummer Classic a respectable nine times. We already know that Molina has nine Gold Gloves to Bench’s 10. Both players have two World Series titles, however, Bench was the World Series MVP in 1976. So, I think we make a fair case that Bench is a better ballplayer than Molina, right?
Oh, but there’s more. Johnny Bench has two NL MVPs to his name. As a catcher, Bench was voted as the Most Valuable Player in the National League twice (1970 and 1972). Molina finished in the Top 5 MVP voting twice (2012 and 2013). In 2012, he wasn’t even the best catcher in the league, as Buster Posey took home the MVP that season.
Do you want some more stats? How about wins above replacement (WAR)? Everybody seems to like that statistic nowadays. Johnny Bench’s career WAR, according to Baseball Reference, is 75.2. Molina’s is 40.3 WAR. That’s lower than the aforementioned Buster Posey‘s 41.8 WAR having played six fewer seasons and 767 fewer games.
So, can we just put to bed any argument that Yadier Molina is a better catcher than Johnny Bench? Can we stop discussing that Yadier Molina is the closest things we’ve seen to Johnny Bench in the last 30 years? I’ll take it one step further, can we please stop suggesting that Yadier Molina is a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
Uh oh, I bet I struck a nerve with Cardinals’ fans right there. But let’s be serious. It took Gary Carter six years to get elected into the Hall of Fame. Carlton Fisk made it into Cooperstown on his second year of eligibility. It took Mike Piazza four tries, and even Ivan Rodriguez barely squeaked in with 76% of the vote during his first year on the ballot.
Will Yadier Molina eventually be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Given what we’ve seen in recent years, yes. Is he a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Not even close. Is Molina in the same rarefied air as Johnny Bench? Not in a million years. Johnny Bench is the greatest catcher in the history of Major League Baseball and it’s going to take a lot to knock him off that throne.