The Roberto Clemente Award is an annual honor given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team.” It has been voted on by fans and members of the media since 1971 and is such an honor that even being nominated – each team gets one nominee per year – is quite an accomplishment and identification of upstanding, moral character.
This season, the Cubs actually wound up with two nominees on their roster, Jon Lester, who was nominated by the Cubs, and Cole Hamels, who was nominated by the Rangers before being traded to the Cubs. Relatedly, Anthony Rizzo finally won the award in 2017 after being nominated in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (yeah, he’s a good dude).
But while the final winner was chosen from the NL Central, neither Lester nor Hamels made the cut. Instead, it was a popular catcher from St. Louis:
Yadier Molina has been named the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Roberto Clemente Award in recognition of his exemplary humanitarian efforts, including relief work in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017. #STLCards pic.twitter.com/vOo6SWUxBT
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 24, 2018
My genuine congratulations go out to Yadier Molina.
When you consider the requisites for the award, I think you’ll be hard pressed to say Molina wasn’t at least as deserving as any other candidate out there. From a pure-baseball perspective (a.k.a. his contributions to the team), Molina is a fine choice. He was an above-average catcher on both sides of the ball again this season, and, like it or not, the “intangibles” argument is as valid for him as it is for anybody.
As for his community involvement, this season he may have shined brightest. According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Molina spent 14 days delivering food and water, repairing roofs, and clearing roads in Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. And his contributions extend well beyond that. Carlos Beltran – a former Cardinal Roberto Clemente award winner, himself – wrote that “He [Molina] has helped the hospital develop operating rooms, he has given a lot of scholarships to kids in Puerto Rico, (and) he also was very active in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. He went to different cities … with some staff (from) his foundation helping a lot of families.”
Molina is the fifth Cardinal to win the award, joining Albert Pujols (2008), Ozzie Smith (1995), Lou Brock (1975), and Beltran (2013). He’s also the third Puerto-Rican-born player and fourth from Puerto Rico, joining Beltran, Edgar Martinez (2004), and Carlos Delgado (2006). The Cardinals now have more Roberto Clemente award winners than any other team (5), which is certainly something they can be proud of.
So, again, congratulations to Yadier Molina and the Cardinals, because this is the type of honor I’m happy to see anybody earn.