As one of the "Round Two" discussions among its sports staff, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked this question: "Will Molina Follow Pujols Out of Town?"
St. Louis fans, still stinging from the departure of Albert Pujols, now have to consider that this might be the last year they enjoy watching Yadier Molina behind the plate.
My first reaction to the question is really? Do we have to do this again? A year after the last-ditch attempts by the team to get a deal done before Pujols shut down negotiations at the start of spring training, the last thing I want to think about is the team losing another star. Yadier Molina, even more than Pujols, would be a loss to me, as a fan. Pujols, while delivering phenomenal results and lifting the team to great success, wasn't always a warm and fuzzy figure.
Molina, however, has always been a different sort. I live near Peoria, Ill., and I went to several games in 2002 when the then 19-year-old Molina played for the Peoria Chiefs. The Molina of Class-A ball was the same as the one we see now--happy, smiling all the time, and beloved by his teammates.
As fans, we remember Molina catching the last ball of the 2006 World Series win, and we remember him falling to his knees in triumph as Allen Craig caught the last out of the 2011 World Series. We remember Molina getting in Brandon Phillips' face in 2010 after the Reds second baseman had made comments that Molina found insulting to his teammates. These are indelible memories for Cardinals fans.
This is the perpetual dark side of free agency, at least for fans. We have to deal with the yearly exodus of players. You liked backup catcher Gerald Laird? Sorry, he's moved on. Octavio Dotel cracked you up with his antics as the team fought to catch the Braves in September? You'll have to go to Detroit to watch him play in 2012. It swings both ways, of course, as free agency has also brought to the Cardinals Carlos Beltran and kept Rafael Furcal. It's a shame, though, that as fans we now harden a little part of ourselves against future heartbreak.
As much as I want Molina to sign an extension to stay with St. Louis, I am not going to worry too much about it. My team just won the World Series. They've brought in some great players for 2012. I plan to enjoy every inning I can of watching Molina pick runners off first and deliver clutch hits. If the whole Pujols saga told us anything as fans, it's that worrying about players and their contracts does us absolutely no good.A native of St. Louis, Brad Boeker is a lifetime Cardinal fan. He first began his devotion to the team at age seven, when his dad showed him how to find Jack Buck on the radio.