There are a hundred ways to subdivide the National League Championship Series before it begins, and a hundred more once it does, but for the moment its a catchers world, and everyone else is working the fringes.
The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals enter this series knowing too much about each other, all the way down to the ways in which they defied gravity just to reach this moment.
But more than anything else, they are about their two catchers, Yadier Benjamin Molina and Gerald Dempsey Posey. They share the same rarefied air at the same time in the games history, and their performances both as comparison points and as emanations that influence their teammates will determine in large part which team advances to the World Series.
Others may put up gaudier numbers in this series, which begins Sunday evening at The Thing On King; in a short series, numbers arent terribly helpful.
But Mike Matheny and Bruce Bochy are both catchers, and they appreciate the game as catchers do. They each have catchers who are MVP candidates, and they are most acutely aware that their catchers will determine in large part whose story gets written larger.
I've always been a big fan of Buster Posey, Matheny, the Cardinal manager, said. I was able to talk to him as he was a young player coming through the minor leagues in the Giants organization, and it didn't take too much foresight to realize that he was going to be special. You could see his makeup, leadership, natural leadership skills he has. And obviously he can swing the bat a little bit.
He's done a terrific job, especially as you look at the obstacles he's had with coming back from a tough, tough injury and still being able to get back behind the plate. I admire the fact when many of the conversations were going towards him moving to first base how adamant he was that he was a catcher. And I understand that mentality.
I will, however, stand behind the fact that Yadier Molina has impressed me more than any catcher I've ever witnessed. The things that he does that are intangible that you can only see by watching every day, and watching from a very critical eye. But he has everything that you would ask for from a catcher defensively. And then there are some things offensively people didn't think he would be able to do, and that was just enough motivation for him to figure out how to do it. I know Buster has to have a lot of consideration as the most valuable player, but from where I sit I don't know how Yadier Molina couldn't be in that conversation, as well.
I think you're talking about two of the best catchers in the game, Bochy, the Giants manager said. Two guys who catch well, throw well, handle the bat, hit for power . . . they have the whole game. And so it's a big reason why these two teams are here, because of the two catchers. So I'm sure there's going to be a lot of comparisons. But they're different players. I don't want to go into that. In their own way, they have their own styles.
Bochy was not more effusive because he doesnt do effusive in a room full of strangers. The closest he came to comparisong Posey and Molina was when he said, Well, they have a lot of thump in their whole lineup, as if to say Molinas importance isnt as readily noticeable at the plate.
But that isnt the point, ultimately. Their offensive numbers tell largely the same story, and though Molina is considered the better defensive catcher, Posey has handled a more disparate pitching staff.
They are, then, different versions of the same guy, and at the level they typically play, the series will revolve around them, because it must. Series gravitate toward great players, almost as an invisible ruler to settle arguments about who is better when thrown into the same pot of boiling water, and the still-nascent Posey-Molina debate is about to gain focus and clarity.
This wont happen because one should end up with a better reputation than the other, or because it will help shift MVP votes (those were already sealed at the end of the regular season). No, beyond the sheer matter of who scores more runs four times first, we will see how Posey changes who the Giants are, and how Molina changes who the Cardinals are. They are invaluable to their teams in that way, and that will be the story that will be told best in the next week or so.