The much-discussed Yadier Molina contract extension doesn't actually begin until 2013, even though it was signed in March, but the St. Louis Cardinals' longtime catcher spent the 2012 season justifying it like nobody—maybe not even the Molina family—expected. He was named a finalist for the 2012 National League MVP Award on Wednesday, and while he probably won't beat out Buster Posey for the NL's top honors, his career year was MVP-caliber by any measure.
After beginning his career as the ultimate defense-only starter—his NLCS home run back in 2006 was so wonderful and unexpected because he'd hit just .216/.274/.321 that year—Molina was remarkable, in 2012, for just how many things he did well. He hit for average, a career-high .315; he hit for power, the 22 home runs as many as he slugged between 2004 and 2007; he played his usual peerless defense, throwing out 48% of base-stealers. He even ran the bases well, taking 12 of his own in 15 chances.
He didn't lead the NL in WAR, but in wins above average he was within the margin of error of Posey. It would be an enormous upset if Molina won the award in 2012, but his competition should do nothing to dull our appreciation of the season he had.
Now that he's settled everyone's stomachs about that five-year, $74 million deal—well, how about he just repeats all of the above for the next five years? Based on the improvements he's made over the first nine seasons of his career, he should pass Barry Bonds's career home run record some time in 2017.