I’m not debating Andrew McCutchen’s winning the MVP award. That doesn’t bother me as much as Molina finishing behind Goldschmidt. Does it matter who finishes second for NL MVP in 2013? Not at all. But there is a life lesson here, not just baseball.
Sportswriters emphasized Goldschmidt’s trackable numbers. Here are some direct quotes I copied from USA Today. Based on principle, I refuse to type this myself: “In a year without a dominant offensive player, McCutchen joined Goldschmidt and Washington's Jayson Werth as the only NL players to finish among the Top 7 in batting, on-base and slugging…Goldschmidt led the NL in homers, RBI, slugging and OPS…”
Great. So, did Goldschmidt’s performance help Arizona finish 81-81 and out of the playoffs instead of finishing, say, 74-88 and out of the playoffs? I’m certain there’s a stat that would show us.
Balance this with Molina. I’ll argue that Molina’s defensive value as the finest catcher in the game PLUS his noteworthy offensive numbers far outweigh Goldschmidt’s overall contributions. What’s not as easily measurable is Molina’s value to the Cardinals’ pitching staff. Injuries knocked out several front-line starters and relievers this year in St. Louis before the season even really started. Young, unproven guys were summoned from the minor leagues to perform in high-leverage situations. Just by reading quotes from pitchers throughout the season in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the average fan starts to understand Molina’s all-around value.
The Cards’ pitchers hit a rough patch this summer when Molina was on the shelf for a couple of weeks with a knee injury, and the team went into a funk. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Molina’s offense, defense and handling of the pitching staff throughout the season are primary reasons (again) why the Cardinals enjoyed another successful year and another trip to the World Series. And it’s not like Molina hits like Bill Bergen. (You gotta allow me to flash a little bit of baseball geekiness.) Molina’s offensive production is significant and comparable to McCutchen’s and Goldschmidt’s in a lot of ways.
But heaven forbid voters consider the nuances of the game, the contributions that never make the box score or never get publicized because they’re not highlight-reel material. They lazily bought into the flashy packaging of surface-level stats and disregarded the substance that requires critical thought.