The old saying isn’t a lie. A team is tested most when things don’t go according to plan. With the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals, the team picked to easily mop up the National League and head back to the World Series, very little has gone right or smooth. This is just another weight being dropped on the shoulders of Cardinal Nation.
So far today, I have heard crying, whining, panic modes and people calling for a wholesale of the team and for the organization to throw the white flag. Why? Yadier Molina will miss 8-12 weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb. He suffered the injury sliding into third base in Wednesday night’s win. Molina left the game and underwent an MRI after the game. The results came in this morning and at 2:45 p.m. General Manager John Mozeliak informed the media and general public that Molina would be out a long time. Twitter exploded. Talk shows spiked. Minds went rampant. I was quietly thrown for a loop and almost…dropped my coffee. At the most, Yadi could be out until the beginning of October. At the least, he isn’t stepping on a field until mid September. For the first time in a long time, Molina won’t anchor this team and carry them into a stretch run.
This is a devastating injury folks. There is no getting around that. When you lose Molina, an MVP type player, the chips will start falling quick and people will panic. What happens next? Tony Cruz, a very able backup who has trained under Molina for years, becomes the starting catcher and Audrey Perez(that one guy you don’t remember and rather shouldn’t) will back him up tonight as the Cards go for the sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cincinnati and Milwaukee have lost already. If the Cards win tonight, they are one game out of first place, That’s the closest they have been since early May. The Cardinals don’t have time to panic. That’s what writers do as they come up with fables to spin for the screaming public. John Mozeliak will look at the market for a veteran catcher to back up Cruz but I don’t expect any other big moves as a result of this injury.
You can’t replace Yadi, so why try? Just keep playing. It sounds boring but that’s all there is to it. My friend and fellow Cardinals scribe Daniel Shoptaw wrote about it for the Cards Conclave and I won’t veer far from his take. It’s a simple route folks. This team is primed to take over first place in the Central Division. The Brewers are falling. The Reds lost Brandon Phillips to the same injury as Molina today. Every team in baseball is hurting. Every team gets injuries. It’s what you do afterwards that makes people respect you or pity you. Think about a kid getting knocked down by a bully in the street. The kid can sit there and tell himself the other kid is too tough so why try. Maybe just sit there and take a beating. That kid can get off the ground and fight back.
The Cards have survived in this division race up to this point and are cleaning up ground. They are starting to play complete baseball. It wouldn’t be baseball if everything was easy and 162 games played themselves.
Yadi nearly cried when he heard the news that he was out nearly three months. He’s that kind of competitor. I feel for the guy. He is a great player, an ambassador for the game and someone to look up to. However, he is hurt and can’t help this team now.
Tony Cruz can crouch down behind home plate tonight and will Shelby Miller to a great game. The Cards can keep winning. Baseball is tricky but it is anything but predictable. The so called experts will say we are screwed. That’s fine. Cruz is only a career .238 hitter but he is above average defensively, strong minded and can hit when called upon. He has never had a large sample size at the plate for a good reason. Yadi has been there. Now he is not and Cruz needs to step up.
What has gone right this season? Not a lot and here are a few dark spots.
The Cards have lost 3/5 of their rotation to injury. Joe Kelly missed more than 2 months. Jaime Garcia is done for the season. Michael Wacha may be out for a long time.
The sluggers, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig, are suffering career lows in production and slugging percentage.
Trevor Rosenthal is giving people ulcers and raising my blood pressure.
Second base has been a deficiency so far with Kolten Wong suffering setbacks, injuries and growing pains.
Shelby Miller is going through a tough sophomore season.
Mike Matheny has a weird devotion to Daniel Descalso and gives Jhonny Peralta, our consistent overall performer, off day so Descalso can play.
Now, Molina goes down. He will be down for a while. Thumb ligaments take time to heal after surgery.
What can the Cardinals do? Shake it off, keep their head up and just keep playing. Things are going right on the field so why panic?
If any team is built to withstand a huge injury, it’s the Cards and the recent history backs it up. Remember 2011. Spring training. Adam Wainwright went down. He couldn’t be replaced. Neither can Yadier Molina. That team did just fine.
Keep your head up, Cardinal Nation. This season is just getting warmed up.
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