11/05/08 4:25 PM EST
Molina honored with first Gold Glove
Catcher's long-recognized defense finally nabs top NL award
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Molina -- long considered one of the best defensive catchers in the National League, if not the best -- was finally officially recognized as such Wednesday when he received his first Rawlings Gold Glove. Molina was the only Cardinals player to be honored.
It was, ironically, something of a down year for Molina behind the plate, though he remains elite after four-plus big league seasons. He threw out 18-of-52 basestealers for a 34.6 percentage, and he committed a career-high 10 errors.
However, Molina was charged with just five passed balls, his lowest total in any full season. He also guided a Cardinals pitching staff that exceeded many expectations by posting a 4.20 ERA, good for seventh in the National League.
"You look at what he's done with our pitchers and our pitching staff over the last few years, and when you look at what he's done as a pure catcher, he ranks up there at the top -- if not in the top two," general manager John Mozeliak said earlier this year. "So with that said, he's definitely a cornerstone of this club moving forward. I really think he has been the last couple years as well."
Molina has been a viable Gold Glove candidate in each of his four full big league seasons. However, it's possible that he benefited this year from putting up career-best offensive numbers. Molina batted .304 with a .349 on-base percentage, a .392 slugging percentage and 56 RBIs -- all career highs.
Molina becomes the third Cardinals catcher to win a Gold Glove, and his honor makes it seven times in 18 years for St. Louis backstops. Tom Pagnozzi won in 1991, '92 and '94, and Mike Matheny won in '00, '03 and '04.
St. Louis believed it had two, or perhaps even three, other legitimate Gold Glove candidates this year, including 2006 NL first-base winner Albert Pujols. But Pujols, third baseman Troy Glaus and shortstop Cesar Izturis all fell short.
Nonetheless, even scoring one Gold Glove was a sweet return to form for the Cardinals. Last year, the team was shut out of the voting for the first time since 1999.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.