Posey & Molina: Different versions of same guy

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Posey & Molina: Different versions of same guy

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.

Instant Replay: Sharks picked apart by Predators, losing streak continues

Instant Replay: Sharks picked apart by Predators, losing streak continues

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE – The Sharks’ road trip somehow got worse, before mercifully coming to an end on Saturday in Nashville.
 
For the second time in two nights, the Sharks were handled with ease by their opponent as Nashville skated to a 7-2 win at Bridgestone Arena. San Jose lost its sixth straight, all in regulation, including all four games on its road trip.
 
Colton Sissons and James Neal each had two goals to lead Nashville.
 
The Sharks have been outscored 13-3 in their last two games, including Friday night’s disastrous 6-1 defeat to lowly Dallas. The last time San Jose lost all of its games in regulation on a road trip of at least four games was March 19-29, 1993 (0-6-0).
 
The Sharks lost center Logan Couture late in the second period, when he was hit squarely in the mouth with a deflected puck and did not return, appearing to loose at least one tooth on the play. Couture immediately charged towards the dressing room after he was struck.
 
Trailing 2-0 to start the second period, Patrick Marleau cut the lead in half on the power play, when he redirected a Brent Burns pass at 4:24.
 
Nashville responded right away, though, when Marcus Sorensen was caught high-sticking P.K. Subban. Neal capped off a pretty passing play with his third goal in as many games against the Sharks this season, whipping it in from the circle just 24 seconds after Marleau’s score.
 
Subban upped the Preds’ lead to 4-1, when Martin Jones lost sight of the puck and the Nashville defenseman whizzed it just inside the post on a shot from the wall at 14:39.
 
Justin Braun brought the Sharks back to within 4-2 with his first goal in 20 games at 16:19 of the second period, but San Jose didn’t get any momentum from the tally. Sissons and Neal each got their second of the night in the final frame, including Neal’s on the power play while Micheal Haley was serving a match penalty.
 
Viktor Arvidsson’s shorthanded goal at 19:22 capped the scoring, and another embarrassing night for San Jose.
 
The Preds scored the only two goals of the first period. At 4:14, Sissons parked in front of the net and whacked in a pass from Colin Wilson, who outmuscled Tomas Hertl on a loose puck behind the net.
 
Cody McLeod made it 2-0. After Roman Josi walked Burns just inside the blue line, the defenseman's shot hit the crossbar and McLeod was in front to poke it over the line at 15:19.
 
The Predators improved to 6-1-0 in their last seven, and took over third place in the Central Division ahead of St. Louis.
 
The Sharks are just 1-5-0 in their last six regular season games in Nashville, with the lone win coming in a shootout. Saturday was their only visit of the season.
 
Special teams 
 
The Sharks went 1-for-3 on the power play, while Nashville was 2-for-4. Perhaps the only good news for San Jose lately is its power play could be coming out of its season-long slump, going 4-for-17 over the last seven games.
 
Marleau has seven power play goals this season.
 
Haley was kicked out of the game for attempting to injure Calle Jarnkrok in the third period.
 
In goal
 
Jones lost for the fourth time in his last five decisions, allowing seven goals on 34 shots, and is just 1-4-2 in his career in the regular season against the Predators.
 
Pekka Rinne made 26 saves, winning his fourth straight start while allowing just five total goals over that span. He’s 11-6-4 career against the Sharks.
 
Lineup
 
Marc-Edouard Vlasic was scratched due to illness, although he did not appear to be walking right after Friday’s game in Dallas when he took just one shift in the third period. San Jose is 2-4-1 when its top defensive defenseman doesn’t dress.
 
Chris Tierney was also out, and is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Timo Meier returned to the lineup after he was a healthy scratch on Friday.
 
Joe Pavelski played in his 800th career game.
 
Up next
 
The Sharks return home to host the Rangers on Tuesday. It’s their first meeting since New York’s 7-4 win on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden in the third game of the season.

A's 17-year-old prospect 'Lazarito' makes Cactus League debut

A's 17-year-old prospect 'Lazarito' makes Cactus League debut

Lazaro Armenteros, the A’s 17-year-old stud outfield prospect better known as “Lazarito,” is believed to have become the youngest player in franchise history to appear in a Cactus League game.

Armenteros entered at the DH spot in the eighth against the Dodgers and went 0-for-2, flying out to right-center and popping up to shallow center. With the A’s short on position players, Armenteros was brought over from minor league camp and got a little exposure to the big league environment.

“He’s quite athletic, and I know they love him over there” at minor league camp, A's manager Bob Melvin recently said.

Armenteros also got a chance to mingle with Dodger outfielder (and fellow Cuban) Yasiel Puig before the game.

“Over there (in Cuba) you kind of play the game because you like it and you enjoy it,” Armenteros recently said through interpreter Juan Dorado. “Here, it’s more like a job. There’s more preparation.”

Armenteros will stay in Arizona through extended spring training and then head to play in the Dominican Summer League.