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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Bengie Molina Factor (World Series Preview)

Mark Simon said on the ESPN Baseball Today podcast yesterday that Bengie Molina will join Lonnie Smith as the only players in baseball history to play in a World Series which featured two teams which both voted them postseason shares.  That means, of course, that Molina's going to get a ring either way, though, no doubt, it will be something of a mixed blessing if it has the Giants logo stamped on it.  Mr. Smith (a.k.a. Skates) ended up on the side of the World Champions and no doubt enjoyed putting it to his former team.  (He hit .333 in the '85 Series, with three doubles, four runs, four RBI, and two steals.  The rookie who inspired the Cardinals to trade him, Vince Coleman, sat out the series with an injury and his replacements, guys like Cesar Cedeno and Andy Van Slyke, struggled mightily (combined 3-for-26).)  So, if the Rangers lose, Molina would be the first to receive a ring for a World Series in which he played for the opposing side.

Even if he goes nuts and wins the World Series MVP, there's probably no way Molina can make the Giants regret trading him.  After all, they don't get this far without finding a way to get Buster Posey in the lineup everyday.  Posey solidified the middle of their lineup throughout the second half and his four hits and two RBI sparked a crucial Game Four win in the NLCS.

That said, nobody knows better than the Giants (and their fans) how streaky Molina can be and how dangerous he is when running hot.  He carried a heavy load this past April, hitting .344 with a .403 OBP at a time when the rest of the offense (even Aubrey Huff) was sputtering and guys like Posey, Pat Burrell, and Cody Ross weren't even on the roster.  But also lingering in the minds of the Giants faithful, including GM Brian Sabean, is certainly the clutch performance Molina put forward the last time they were in the World Series, in 2002.  Problem is, at that time he was also on the opposing team, the Angels.  Molina's overall stats for the '02 Series are solid (.286 AVG, .375 OBP, etc.), but what Giants fans will remember are the two doubles he hit in Game Seven, the first of which tied the game.

Molina has, thusfar this postseason, been running hot.  He hit .333 with 2 HR, 7 RBI, and a 922 OPS during the Rangers first two series, highlighted by his huge three-run homer in Game Four of the ALCS.

Of course, Molina's offense is not the only thing he brings to the table.  There is only one player on the Rangers roster who has a significant history with Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, and Matt Cain.  And that player, Bengie Molina, has seen more pitches from the trio of Giants hurlers than anybody in the game, having been their primary catcher every since they reached the big leagues.  If there is a functional scouting report for San Francisco's Aces, Molina knows it.

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