Every time I read an update on the Mets’ pursuit of Bengie Molina, I think about the following scene from the best television show of all-time:
The latest report — the one linked above — says the Mets are willing to give Molina a one-year deal with a vesting option, but Molina is holding fast in his demand for three years. Obviously.
I spend a lot of time making fun of Molina in this space because he’s incredibly slow and he’s not fun to watch and he’s an old, overweight catcher, but I don’t actually think a one-year deal for the man would be the worst thing in the world. He’ll be a catcher, and he’ll hit a few home runs, and he won’t get on base enough to clog up the basepaths.
That would be, I suppose, the baseball equivalent of the end of the scene linked above, which unfortunately is not included in the clip — GOB and Buster plow into each other in slow motion. It is silly, but ultimately harmless.
The vesting option is troubling, and it seems as though vesting options may be becoming Omar Minaya’s new folly of choice, but without the details it would be hard to analyze.
Going past one guaranteed year, though, for a 35-year-old catcher who is pretty obviously not in prime physical condition, doesn’t strike me as a good idea. Not when Josh Thole is readying himself in Triple-A, or when both Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez could be free agents next offseason, or when the catcher in question isn’t that good to begin with.
Defenders of the deal point to Molina’s ability to handle pitching staffs. Always. And that’s nice. All I can say to counter that is that people said the exact same thing about Brian Schneider two years ago, only to have Dan Warthen throw Schneider under the bus for the same quality this season.
Handling a pitching staff, I would guess, is the type of thing to which there is actual value, but for which a catcher’s ability varies greatly by situation and pitcher and is impossible to completely define. Maybe Brian Schneider really was great for the Nationals’ young pitchers in 2007, and heck, maybe he was great for Mike Pelfrey in 2008, but for some reason his Brian Schneider Staff-Handling Magic Dust was not as effective on John Maine and Oliver Perez. Maybe Bengie Molina’s will be, or maybe it won’t be, or maybe it’s nonsense. Since it’s not something I imagine could ever be properly evaluated, it’s not something I would ever recommend paying for.
I imagine if the Mets sign Molina, he proves to be a nice guy, and Perez gets off to a nice start, you’ll hear a ton of talk about Molina’s positive influence on Ollie. Then, when Perez inevitably tanks, no one will say anything about how Molina has stopped being able to handle him. That’s how these things work.
Again, that’s not to say they’re not there. They are, I’m sure. But we never really know to what extent, and so mostly they just make for good stories.
Anyway, none of that will matter until someone chickens out and gives in to the other’s demands or they agree on a compromise. The Mets have more leverage as long as Miguel Olivo and Rod Barajas are still available, but Molina can lord over the Mets his indisputable Bengie Molina-dom, which they apparently value.