ST. LOUIS -- Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen was the early favorite. San Francisco's Buster Posey and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun seem to be at the head of the discussion now. But as the regular season winds down, those in the Cardinals clubhouse are lobbying for someone else to enter the mix for the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
Yadier Molina, already regularly described as the game's best defensive catcher, has had an offensive year that rivals that of any other catcher in baseball. Combine the two, and Molina has a convincing candidacy.
"When you start watching every day like we all do, you understand the value he brings," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "And when you talk about the most valued, I can't imagine anyone being any more [valuable]."
"He's an MVP in my book, whether he's behind the plate or in the box," added third baseman David Freese. "I think when you watch Yadi hit, you can just sense that you know what he's doing. I think that defines a complete big league hitter, when you can just look at him and see he has an approach and see that he knows what to do. And then after that, he executes. We're fortunate to have him driving guys in. We're fortunate to have him throwing guys out."
Molina hit his 20th home run of the year on Wednesday, a benchmark he had never previously reached. With a .324 batting average, Molina entered Thursday ranked fourth in the NL. He has already set career highs in RBIs (68) and hits (151).
"I don't take anything for granted," Molina said. "If I go 4-for-4 one day, I want to do it again the next day. I go day by day and try to do the best I can each day."
What Molina is doing on the defensive end is nothing new. He's a four-time NL Gold Glove Award winner who is on his way toward nabbing a fifth. He's thrown out 47 percent of runners trying to steal on him and is routinely lauded for the work he does with a pitching staff.
This defensive side, though, often goes undervalued in the MVP voting, which is why Molina remains a long shot to win the award. He has never previously finished higher than 21st in the voting.