ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina may not have had the flashiest of numbers, the highest WAR or the sentimental storyline to boost his National League Most Valuable Player Award candidacy. But in a vote of value, he brought recognition to the intangibles undefined by stat sheets.
Molina received two first-place votes and enjoyed the highest MVP finish of his career. It was, however, still not enough to take home the hardware, which ends up in Pittsburgh with center fielder Andrew McCutchen. The D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt finished second, with Molina and teammate Matt Carpenter finishing third and fourth, respectively.
McCutchen received 28 of the possible 30 first-place votes. The other two -- both cast by members of the St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- went to the Cardinals' catcher. Still, Goldschmidt finished with a higher overall point total (242) than Molina (219). Carpenter had 194 points.
"Just seeing my name on the ballot as a top three finalist for the Most Valuable Player title in the National League brings me great satisfaction because this accolade means a lot," Molina said in a statement released by MDR Sports Management. "You go out on the field every day and play hard to accomplish goals. Let's be realistic, what player doesn't want to be named MVP? Even more when you are selected by the baseball writers. As a child, one dreams about becoming the MVP of your team.
"I am truly thankful for my health that has permitted me to obtain optimal results in my career. Every day I wake up thinking how fortunate I am to play for an exceptional team, to be guided by a great leader and surrounded by some of the best players throughout the years. What more can a guy ask for? I extend a heartfelt congratulation to Andrew McCutchen for winning MVP."
Both Molina and Carpenter were named on the ballots of all 30 voters, each of whom listed their top 10. Molina was listed as low as 10th on one ballot; Carpenter fell as far as ninth but also received six second-place votes. It marks the first time since 2004 that the Cardinals have had two of the top four MVP finishers.
Three other Cardinals -- Allen Craig, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday -- also received votes. Craig received an eighth-place vote and 10th-place vote to finish 18th. With a seventh-place vote, Wainwright finished tied for 20th. Holliday received a lone ninth-place vote.
Leading up to Thursday's reveal, there had been substantial debate as to how voters would define value when casting their ballots. McCutchen had the NL's highest WAR (wins above replacement) and was the centerpiece of a Pirates team that advanced to the postseason for the first time in 21 years. Goldschmidt had the gaudy numbers, as he led the league in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage.
Molina had an all-around impact, but it was tougher to quantify. He cemented himself as one of the league's top offensive players and challenged for the NL batting title deep into the season. He set a franchise record for doubles by a catcher with 44 and ranked fourth in the league with his .319 batting average.
Even though Molina missed time due to a knee injury, he was among the NL's top seven in average with runners in scoring position (.373), multihit games (50), three-hit games (14) and four-hit games (four). The Silver Slugger Award winner set career highs in hits (161), runs (68) and RBIs (80). He also delivered 19 go-ahead RBIs and 10 game-winning RBIs.
On the defensive end, it was as expected from Molina, who has established himself as the best at his position. He recently won his sixth Gold Glove Award: only three catchers in Major League history have a more expansive Gold Glove collection than that.
He was tops among all catchers with 12 defensive runs saved and threw out 43.5 percent of attempted basestealers. Molina, who was run on only 46 times, led all NL catchers in games (131) and innings caught (1,115 1/3). Onlookers marvel, too, at the ease with which he receives and blocks pitches.
"You don't teach it," Rob Johnson, one of Molina's backups in 2013, said. "You can work on it all you want. He has God-given abilities that are special. There are some very good catchers around baseball, and I've played with some good catchers. But in my mind, no one is close."
As a leader in the clubhouse and a veteran voice behind the plate, Molina was undoubtedly influential in the success of the Cardinals' pitching staff this season. The oft-thrown-about phrase "Follow Yadi" was adopted by several of the Cardinals' young pitchers, who used Molina's guidance to navigate through the season. Molina caught 10 rookie pitchers this year.
"I think he's invaluable to those young guys," said Wainwright, who finished second in the NL Cy Young Award race. "I don't think you can put a 'games won' or a price tag on what he has done to help our young pitchers. The large majority of our pitchers don't shake one time throughout a game because they're throwing to Yadi and they know he has a good plan and they trust him."
Carpenter, a Silver Slugger winner at second, had a breakout season. He was tops in the Majors in runs (126), hits (199), doubles (55), multihit games (63), and three-hit games (18). His 55 doubles established a new Cardinals record for doubles by a second baseman and broke Stan Musial's record for doubles by a left-handed-hitting Cardinal.
His value wasn't entirely wrapped up in stats, either, as Carpenter was critical in filling a defensive hole that the Cardinals had. He took to learning a new position last offseason and won the starting job in Spring Training. He later filled a hole in the leadoff spot and became a first-time All-Star in July.
"You just look at what Matt has accomplished this year, especially a guy that just never had the route paved for him and what he's been able to overcome and the things that he's been able to do just purely by will and hard work and talent, obviously," manager Mike Matheny said toward the end of the season. "It's got to be very rewarding for him. It's paying off because of the way he's going about it. He's won over the respect and admiration of the league, the fans and absolutely the clubhouse."