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Yadier Molina commits the choke job of 2012

Sep 13, 2012, 2:15 AM EDT

Yadier Molina Getty Images

“You need to trust your teammates,” Yadier Molina said afterwards. Because he obviously didn’t trust himself.

The Cardinals were down 3-2 in the top of the ninth Wednesday against the Padres. Allen Craig opened the frame with a double off Luke Gregerson, putting the tying run in what most of us consider scoring position. The Cardinals pinch-ran with Adron Chambers to make it even more likely that a hit would score a run. Molina decided it wasn’t position enough, so the league’s fourth leading hitter dropped down a sacrifice bunt.

Such a decision would have been defensible if the game was tied. Or it would have been defensible if the Cardinals were down 3-2 at home instead. Maybe it even would have been defensible with a .215 hitter at the plate, though I still would have been strongly against it then.

As is, the decision was indefensible. It was ridiculous. It was a case of Yadier Molina — a four-time All-Star, a two-time world champion and one of the NL’s 10-best players this year — flat-out choking.

Of course, the decision didn’t work out. And I wouldn’t be writing this if it had. But regardless of how it played out, it was a boneheaded move. Playing for the tie on the road is foolish. If Molina’s bunt incrementally increased the chances of the Cards going to the bottom of the ninth even, it also upped the likelihood that the team would lose a 15-inning game at Petco and burn out its bullpen ahead of a huge four-game series against the Dodgers that starts Thursday.

One would think a guy with a neck tattoo would know a bit more about going for the jugular.

No, the catcher who signed a $75 million contract earlier this year passed the buck on to a guy making $508,000. David Freese grounded out for the second out of the ninth with Chambers holding at third. After Carlos Beltran walked, Skip Schumaker grounded out to end it. It was an opportunity lost for the Cardinals, as they were swept in a three-game series in San Diego.

Look, it’s a long season. I don’t think Molina made his decision because he was scared. But he wasn’t mentally where he needed to be tonight. I know it’s tough for the Cardinals to give him much of a breather this time of year, but he seems to require one.

  1. kachlucca - Sep 13, 2012 at 2:30 AM

    If this had worked, you would all be gushing about what an unselfish, heroic leader Yadier Molina is. And he is every bit of that. The guy he brought to the plate with a runner on third and one out has the 10th best batting average in the NL (Freese).

    I think we should start a new contest for readers to choose the Sportswriter Choke of the Day, highlighting those who are burned out in September and write rubbish to fill a column.

    You are today’s winner!

    • dcfan4life - Sep 13, 2012 at 3:57 AM

      While i totally disagree with the idea of calling this a choke job, i do however agree he shouldn’t have bunted in this situation. Not when your down and your a top hitter. Its just old school baseball and it is a classic case of a player/manager (r u sure the manager didnt call this bunt by the way) over thinking the scenario. It happens, Its no the end of the world. And it isnt choking. If you want to see choke jobs check out Alex Rodriguez career postseason stats…

      • CJ - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:36 AM

        no way in the world a 1st year manager asks his best player to bunt in that situation.

      • Alex K - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:05 AM

        You mean Alex Rodriguez’s .277/.386/.498 postseason stats? The guy with 13 home runs in 299 plate appearances? Sure, those aren’t as good as his regular season numbers, but it’s also a pretty small sample of PA’s spread out over 16 years (10 different playoff years).

      • dcfan4life - Sep 13, 2012 at 12:23 PM

        If your in the discussion as the best player in baseball and you have stats like that, then you have done a choke job. Not to mention those stats are only that decent cuz the last 2 postseasons he participated in he did well. Yet he has not been a difference maker. Not an MVP. Not a $250 million dollar player in the playoffs. You pay all that money you expect your best player to be your best player. Im not referring to now, but years ago when he was the Yankees best player, and it didnt carry over to the playoffs. Hell im sure the fact that since he is NOT their best offensive player anymore has helped him in the playoffs recently. But when he was, he stunk, and if thats not a choke job i dunno what is.

    • cur68 - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:03 AM

      Bunting sucks.

    • gibbyfan - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:45 AM

      The article makes a broader and good point—the cards just dont have a winning character this year–I guess when you lose as many 1 run games as they have some of the blame has to go to the manager but the players are just not getting it done as opposed to the Reds for example —I think the cards lost a lot when they lost Walt J……….Again–look at the Reds–smaller payroll but managed to keep or get really key players

      • stlouis1baseball - Sep 13, 2012 at 12:59 PM

        With you Gibson. I lamented Jocketty’s departure the minute I found out about it.
        I have always like him.
        If memory serves…it was a power struggle thing between he and Luhnow.
        The DeWitt’s took it from Jocketty and gave it to Luhnow.
        When Walt went to Cincinnati I told all of my Reds loving buddies they were going to be very happy with him. Obviously, they are happy with the job he has done.

  2. hushbrother - Sep 13, 2012 at 2:48 AM

    His bell still ringing from the collision with Josh Harrison?

  3. mkd - Sep 13, 2012 at 3:03 AM

    I don’t agree with kachlucca above because I really doubt you would have ever gushed about a bunt in that situation (whether it worked or not), but it’s getting to the point where every time I see a HBT headline come through the rss feed that seems needlessly provocative I think “Hey I’ll bet that’s a Mathew Pouliot article.” And lo and behold…

    There is fine line between being an opinionated writer and being an obnoxious jerk. Don’t go the TJ Simers/Dan O’Shaughnessy route dude. Be better than that.

    • thehypercritic - Sep 13, 2012 at 4:02 AM

      I don’t want to pile on, but I can definitely tell from the headlines when this writer posted at HBT and that’s not a good thing. For a while I thought he was doing a satire of drunken sportswriters of yesteryear as many of his views seemed out of step with the blog’s larger voice.

      I think it’s odd to put this on Molina rather than the manager, and I’m loathe to call anything in professional sports choking as the author has on several occasions, but it’s not a bad piece.

      That said, Mr. Pouliot’s posted a couple of his best posts over the past few weeks (both brought in some advanced statistics if I recall) and either my tastes are drawing closer to his own or he’s making strides as a writer. Either way, he churns out a lot of posts and always has a point of view — even if you disagree with it. Can’t really ask for more.

      • kiwicricket - Sep 13, 2012 at 5:22 AM

        I agree. Have often found his advanced statistical analysis interesting and insightful, but with a fun element which doesn’t bore the pants off of me.

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:30 AM

        Molina bunted on his own, so whether you agree with it or not, it’s on him, not the manager.

  4. thenoblefacehumper - Sep 13, 2012 at 3:14 AM

    Do you know for a fact it wasn’t called from the bench? Not trying to be snarky, legitimately wondering if you have a way of knowing that.

    • paperlions - Sep 13, 2012 at 7:01 AM

      Of course, it was almost definitely called from the bench…..writing as if players typically get to choose when they bunt is disingenuous at best….but the tone of the writing suggests something else.

      The play was short-sighted and stupid (whether it worked out or not, like all bunts in that situation), but it is more appropriate here to rip the manager than the player.

      Hell, I’m just surprised a player could get a sac bunt down when he needed to.

      • timstl - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:37 AM

        It wasn’t called from the bench, based on post-game comments.

      • paperlions - Sep 13, 2012 at 9:09 AM

        Then it is on him….of course, in baseball, bunting a runner over to 3rd with none out is often considered a good play, despite the fact that you are playing yourself right out of a potential big inning. Still fucking stupid to refer to it as a choke job (much less the biggest choke job of 2012). It was just a bad baseball decision….they happen every day.

      • jkcalhoun - Sep 13, 2012 at 9:16 AM

        They happen every day…especially in Royals’ games, given that they have been choking out sacrifice bunts in this situation all year, in any inning. Consider yourself lucky if you still can react with indignation about it instead of resignation.

  5. kachlucca - Sep 13, 2012 at 3:41 AM

    I respect your comment about why you disagree with me, mkd. I live outside the US and I don’t know the other guys you reference in your comment, but you highlighted for me why I commented in the first place — the headline was over the top. This doesn’t come close to qualifying as the “choke of 2012″.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 13, 2012 at 7:30 AM

      Don’t ever read Shaughnessy (aka the Curly Haired Boyfriend) in either the Boston Globe, SI or ESPN. He’s just a professional troll along the likes of Rick Reilly and Skip Bayless. TJ Simers writes for the LA Times and is just a jackass who thinks his sarcasm is funny.

  6. sfm073 - Sep 13, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    Really a choke job? I dont agree with the decision to bunt, but this is far from a choke job. It must be real easy ti criticize and poke fun at someone behind a keyboard.

  7. btwicey - Sep 13, 2012 at 4:56 AM

    Settle down Pouliot .. He didn’t hook up with your mother… Gosh

    • kiwicricket - Sep 13, 2012 at 5:28 AM

      Pedro Gomez is yet to deny this…

  8. kiwicricket - Sep 13, 2012 at 5:15 AM

    Matthew- We all appreciate your work and enjoy your insight into this game, but I’m sure I am not the only one who is slightly irked by this constant run of sour, overly negative effluent you have been pumping out lately.
    Intelligence, insight and humor falls by the wayside if FoxSports/PFT type posts become the norm. Just my opinion.

    “One would think a guy with a neck tattoo would know a bit more about going for the jugular”
    Yep, stay classy there Matthew.

    • Alex K - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:17 AM

      Please don’t lump us all in about appreciating Matthew’s work or insight. I could go to a lot of other places to get this “insight”.

  9. watchfullhose - Sep 13, 2012 at 5:59 AM

    Keep up the good work, Matthew!

  10. taxed00 - Sep 13, 2012 at 6:06 AM

    Okay let’s see here,

    1 – It was a good bunt, in the sense that it got the job done, and Yadi has a reputation as a good bunter

    2 – Was it his own decision or was it called from the bench?

    3 – Who really choked, Yadi, or the hitters that couldn’t bring the run in after him?

    4 – “the leagues fourth leading hitter”, fourth leading hitter in what?

    Just as a side note, I don’t really understand what you’re trying to get at with this:

    “No, the catcher who signed a $75 million contract earlier this year passed the buck on to a guy making $508,000.”

    What if it was Vernon Wells bunting with Mike Trout waiting in the on-deck circle?

    • Jeremy Fox - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:34 AM

      Re: 2: Molina bunted on his own. Here’s a report from Keith Law’s twitter feed:

      Re: 4: Molina is 4th in the NL in BA.

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:35 AM

        p.s. the “he” referred to in Keith Law’s tweet is the Cardinals manager.

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:37 AM

        And no, I’m not sure why if the manager agreed with Molina’s decision, he didn’t call for the bunt himself.

  11. paperlions - Sep 13, 2012 at 7:06 AM

    I’m starting to think Pouliot lost a lot of money betting against the Cardinals last year.

    Can we coin the term:

    Pouliot (noun): negative venom-laced hyperbole that is not warranted, appropriate or accure

    “Not since Hitler went after the Jews has a single man appeared to hate another group as much as Matthew Pouliot hates the St. Louis Cardinals.”

    • paperlions - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:19 AM

      Dang that was poorly executed (thought the gist comes through).

      Remember: Coffee first, internet second.

  12. ch0psuey - Sep 13, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    I am a Friars fan and still think this article is harsh, whats up with this?

  13. hittfamily - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    “I’d have double bagged it” —Old commercial with Brett Favre playing monday morning quarterback regarding everyday occurences. Someone walked out of a grocery store and the milk fell out of the bottom.

    Seriously? Choke Job? I like the move. Screw your stats, it’s hard to score a guy on second! The greatest hitters ever get a hit every third at bat. The shittiest hitter ever can hit a fly ball. Yadi executed. All it takes is a fly ball, a hit, an error, or a WP/PB to win the game. If I want to win, I’d rather have a runner on 3rd with one out, than a runner on 2nd with no outs. If the guy is still on second with no outs, it means the next batter hasn’t succeeded yet.

  14. eagles512 - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Call me an idiot but why not get the tying run to 3rd with less than 2 out? Either I’m missing something or the writer doesn’t like Molina.

    • thebighern - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:43 AM

      What you’re missing is that if you go from a runner on second with no outs to having a runner on third with 1 out, you’ve actually decreased your run expectancy.

      http://www.tangotiger.net/re24.html

      Including something like that in the original article probably would have been helpful.

      • bh192012 - Sep 13, 2012 at 4:57 PM

        Which isn’t what your’re trying to do in this situation. You don’t need 2 runs to not lose, you just need 1.

        From your link:

        % chance that a run will score at some point in the inning

        2B no outs .637
        3B one out.674

  15. stlouis1baseball - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    “Choke job?”
    Not only does he ignorantly refer to a sac bunt as a “choke job”…
    He refers to it as the “the choke job of 2012.”

    I got a better headline:
    Matthew Pouliot is the “dipwad” of 2012.

  16. pdowdy83 - Sep 13, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    This article is awful. I usually love this website because of the LACK of articles like this one. Molina did not choke. A choke implies a failure to do something. He gave his team 2 more chances to drive in a runner from 3rd base to tie a game. If Molina had grounded to 2nd base moving Chambers to 3rd in the process it would have been lauded as “a great team player who did what he could to move along a runner.” Freese and Shumacker appear to be the ones who choked by not being able to make it happen. Yes Molina probably should have swung away in the situation but to call this a choke is bad journalism. To call if the “choke of 2012″ is just plain ignorant.

    The Pirates are currently choking and watching their playoff chances go out the window. Roy Oswalt’s season has been him choking every time he pitches. The Red Sox management choked when they missed on other managers and hired Bobby V. Those are just 3 instances this season that are bigger chokes in 2012 than a guy moving a runner over to 3rd base with no outs in a 1 run game…

  17. Alex K - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    The sack bunt was a stupid play. Doing something stupid is not “choking”.

    If you’re trying to bait Cards fans like Craig does Philly fans, please stop. You don’t seem to be funny or clever enough to do it in a “this is fun” type of way.

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:30 AM

      The “dipwad” certainly appears to be baiting. Seemingly every other day or so.
      I am going to make a concerted effort to try to stop posting on articles written by the ”dipwad.”
      I encourage everyone to do their part and call me out whenever I backslide.
      Much like trying to stop smoking…trying to stop posting on an article written by a “dipwad” sometimes requires help from friends and family.
      After all…it really is a team effort.

      • paperlions - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM

        It doesn’t feel like baiting to me. The tone and word choice in the and the dipwad posts are simply hateful and venomous….it reads like there is real anger and disdain there, not playful banter or honest baiting.

      • Alex K - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:54 AM

        That’s what I was getting at, paper. I don’t know if that is what he is trying to do…if he is he’s doing an awful job at it.

  18. footballchic777 - Sep 13, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    As a REDS fan, NOTHING makes me happier than seeing Molina make and idiot of himself! Thanks Yadier….you just made my day!

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 13, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      Ummm…a few things.
      #1) Successfully executing a sac bunt does NOT (under any scenario) make one an idiot nor does it make him “make an idiot of himself.”
      #2) A person’s “peers” in baseball are very much those he plays with AND against.
      In other words…”HIS COMPETITORS.”
      #3) Your handle is “footballchic.”
      This could easily explain why I had to help you out with #’s (1) & (2).

      • notadumbblond3 - Sep 13, 2012 at 1:51 PM

        Stlouis, I’m a Reds fan, and I agree with you. In this situation Yadier Molina definitely did NOT choke. I don’t know if he decided to bunt on his own or if he got the instruction from the bench, but that doesn’t really matter. I don’t know why he or anyone else would make the decision to take the bat out of his hands with a guy on second. In my opinion, that’s a completely boneheaded move, but every team in baseball does it so it’s neither here nor there. He executed the bunt and got the runner to third. You could say everyone after him choked since they failed to get the runner in from third with only one out, but I think it’s ridiculous to say Molina choked. Actually, when I read this, my first thought was that it sounded like something the Reds would do. I love my team unequivocally, but they do really asinine things sometimes that make absolutely no sense, ill-advised (and in their case more often than not, poorly executed) sacrifice bunts are just one example.

        Also, as a Reds fan, while I may think Yadier Molina looks like a moron with his neck tats and overly sculpted eyebrows, and I may hate him for the fact that every time the REDS play STL, he almost single-handedly cleans their clocks, I can freely admit that the dude is a kick-ass ball player and I’d love him like my brother if he was on my team. I have to give credit where credit is due and the man can flat out play. A choke-artist, he ain’t.

  19. thatyankeedude - Sep 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Really if this qualifies as choking then striking out with the bases loaded must be gagging. Give me a break he was trying to put his team in an even better situation. I don’t even like Molina but I respect his selfless mentality. Sometimes it backfires but just like the very first comment said if the cardinals would have won that bunt means something rather than nothing. I just don’t understand how you can declare this choking. The cardinals were also struggling to get runs last night, as the score indicates, so putting the runner in a situation where a ground ball or sac fly ties it isn’t even close to choking its actually playing the odds. Just didn’t work last night but I bet it would most the time just like Molina thought it would.

  20. mplsjoe - Sep 13, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    We call it pulling a Mauer.

  21. footballchic777 - Sep 13, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    stlouisbaseball

    Don’t need your help with 1 and 2. In my opinion, someone with Molina capabilities should not have tried the bunt, successful or not. Again, that is my opinion. Secondly, when you were referring to a post from a while back about peers vs. competitors, those competing against Phillips don’t like him, especially Cards. Brandon Phillips is what he is, outspoken, brash, and unapologetically just who he is. Same as Molina. I would have thought the same comparison about peer vs. competitor if they were speaking about him. Didn’t realize only the opines of the few were allowed. Also, maybe I should change the name to cincychic that way you do not feel MY opinion is bereft of any knowledge!

  22. Florio_Jr. - Sep 13, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    Pouliot, I completely question every bit of your credibility after this. Where in the living hell were you last October?!? Get your head out of your fucking ass. Your mother called…GET OUT OF HER BASEMENT AND FIND SOMEWHERE ELSE TO LIVE!!

  23. Florio_Jr. - Sep 13, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    Oh and David Freese…all you say is $508,000 third basemen David Freese. No NLCS MVP David Freese, World Series MVP David Freese, 21 RBI’s in the Playoffs David Freese, Game Six. What a disgrace you are, dude.

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