From 2007 until this season, Bengie Molina backstopped the San Francisco Giants and handled their pitching staff as well as any catcher in baseball. His first season with the team saw him set a career high for RBI’s with 80, his second season saw him break that career high with 95, and in his third season, he set a career high for homeruns with 20. Offensively, he was everything the Giants asked of him and more. He constantly came up clutch in tight situations, and had one of the best two-strike swings in baseball. He also set career highs with hits, doubles, and batting average.
This past off-season when Molina headed to free agency, the Giants pondered their options. Their prized prospect Buster Posey, also a catcher, was not quite ready for the majors. It had looked like Molina was going to sign elsewhere, when out of nowhere, the Giants brought him back on a one-year deal, most likely to give Posey that extra time in the minors.
Molina continued to handle the young Giants pitching staff, including Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathon Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner (for a brief time)—the staff that he helped to develop.
But early this season, Molina struggled out of the gate and Posey was tearing it up in AAA for the Fresno Grizzlies. It was then that General Manager Brian Sabean had a tough choice to make. He went through with it, and sent their veteran catcher to the Texas Rangers for reliever, and former closer, Chris Ray. The Giants did this feeling confident that Posey could handle the workload, and the gamble paid off.
Posey picked up right where he left off in the minors, including a 21 game hitting streak, tying him for the longest such streak in Giants’ history. Posey would end up finishing the season batting .305 after struggling late, but also with 18 homeruns and 67 RBI’s. He is a top contender for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Molina, meanwhile, finished the season with 5 homeruns and 36 RBI’s.
For the first time in a while, the moves made by Sabean paid off, and this was just one in a long line of subtle acquisitions that went towards the building of the 2010 NL Pennant winning team. But when the Giants shipped off Molina, they made sure he went to a contender, because that is what he deserved. He helped this team every step of the way, not just offensively, but helped the team’s young arms, and even Posey briefly. They can owe their success today partially to Bengie Molina.
Little did the Giants know that five months later, they would be facing Molina and the team they traded him to in the World Series. Both the Giants and Rangers were suspected to be good this year, but not that good.
It has been mentioned that because Molina did spend more than a third of the season in San Francisco, that if the Giants do happen to win the World Series, they could give him a ring. I would be all for that, because if it was not for him, this pitching staff may not be as good as they are now. But for Molina, he is in a win-win situation, because it is likely that he will get himself a World Series ring no matter what.
Every championship round seems to have its own subplot, and in 2010, this one is it.