Monday, October 25, 2010

The Curious Case of Bengie Molina

When the always interesting Brian Wilson struck out Ryan Howard looking to end Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS, several noteworthy things were accomplished. Perhaps most importantly, the Philadelphia Phillies were stopped in their hunt for a third consecutive National League pennant, which means that a measure of sanity and justice has been restored to the world, and that I can watch the World Series again without contemplating if I'm a masochist.

All good things.

This will also provide us the chance to see a new and interesting World Series champion, either the Texas Rangers, who were previously one of three franchises -- along with Seattle and Washington -- to never appear in the World Series, or the San Francisco Giants, who have not won a championship in 56 years and not once since moving to San Francisco.

But perhaps most interestingly, this matchup is providing us with the perplexing situation of those always ubiquitous Molina brothers. Bengie and Jose Molina already have World Series rings from their years in Anaheim and Jose's season in New York last year, while Yadier Molina won a title with St. Louis in 2006. Interestingly, the three always tend to wind up with a big hit, or at least as good as a .274, .236 and .268 career light-hitting catcher can, and this time Bengie didn't disappoint, whopping a massive three-run homer in Game 4 of the ALCS that woudl eventually help to topple the mighty Yankees and send the Rangers to their first ever World Series. And perhaps his biggest reward is that he gets to see his old teammates and is guaranteed a Championship ring in what might be his final season.

Wait, what? Doesn't he still have to win four more games to do that? Apparently, the answer is, no, not really.

See, Bengie's Texas teammates will have to scratch and claw their way towards a ring, but for the last three seasons he was helping to groom a young pair of pitchers named Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain while playing behind the plate for San Francisco. And in January, the career defensive wiz ponied up for one more go-around with San Francisco at the bargain rate of $4.5 million. But that Giants bullpen needed some help, so with Buster Posey needing no more seasoning at the minor league level, Bengie Molina was shipped off to Arlington in exchange for reliever Chris Ray and a player to be named later, and the paths of Bengie Molina and the San Francisco Giants were never to cross again.

Right? Right.

Well, that isn't exactly how it turned out, and this most unusual of World Series matchups has now pitted the elder Molina against his old mates, which should add an interesting wrinkle considering that few people are probably more capable of breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of San Francisco's tremendous pitching rotation than the almost defensively legendary Molina.

I don't know about you, but that certainly seems like quite the edge to me. But then again, Lincecum and Cain are pretty nasty when they want to be, so the fact that Texas will still have to, you know, swing the bat, could give the edge back to Gigantes.

Either way, I think this will be a great series because it is two older franchises with relatively little to claim in the way of championships in the past 50 years that happen to be playing extremely well right now. I'm also pretty sure I'm the only person in the city of New York who cares.

But regardless, the most interesting thing to me is Molina, who aside from being, potentially, an extremely valuable X-Factor, also seems to be guaranteed a ring no matter what, considering he was on both of these teams for significant chunks of the season. Molina is only the sixth to turn the trick in baseball history, and the first in 12 years since journeyman reliever Jim Bruske spent parts of 1998 with both the Yankees and Padres -- though not on a World Series roster.

In case you're wondering, the immortal Jack Kramer, Johnny Schmitz, Sid Monge and Lonnie Smith are the other four.

While Molina might have some complex emotional feelings regarding the Series since he is certainly friendly with most of the players in the Giants' locker room, as a professional he'll certainly be trying his best. And frankly, knowing that he essentially can do no wrong doesn't hurt either, though one might think the Giants could be wary of being so friendly to Molina considering their last World Series appearance.

So what do you people think? Molina gets a ring no matter what happens? Fair? Foul? I'm curious as to what the four people who read this think. Lay it on me.

Oh yeah, and let's say, um, Giants in six.

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