Don’t Underestimate Jose Molina’s Hustle

By Peter M. Gordon

Sep 20, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Molina (28) scores during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the news came that the Rays re-signed Jose Molina for the next two years, many observers complained about Molina’s offensive ability. While acknowledging that he was a great receiver of the ball and called a great game, many people complained about his lack of speed and lack of effort. He certainly doesn’t look like a fast runner, but even worse he seemed to laze over to first base when he put the ball in play. However, while Molina’s speed is not going to make anyone confuse him with Desmond Jennings, it would be a mistake for fans to dismiss Molina’s baserunning ability.

Molina uses the speed he has to his advantage. In the famous 18 inning game the Rays played against the Orioles on September 20, Molina hit a ground ball to the left field corner which he stretched into a double when the left fielder didn’t hustle to get to the ball. He then took third on a sacrifice fly to right, and scored on another sacrifice fly. Molina’s hustle made that run, without which the game would have been over in the 9th inning.

Molina also stole two bases in 2013. While that might not seem like a lot, it was still tied for 9th among catchers and was more than 35 others. (Russell Martin and Jonathan Lucroy led all catchers with 9 stolen bases for the year.) Molina’s steals weren’t cheapies either. On April 8th, Molina stole second base with the Rays down a run in the 9th, and on June 23rd, he stole second with the Rays up two runs in the 8th. Molina may is the opposite of fast, but in two big situations, Molina surprised the defense and gave the Rays a runner in scoring position both times.

Molina’s .233 batting average and .290 on base percentage demonstrate that the Rays didn’t sign Molina for his bat. However, Molina uses his understanding of the game to maximize the offense he can provide the team. One of the Rays’ great strengths as an organization is that they don’t expect players to do more than they are capable of doing. But they love to sign players who get the most out of what they can do, and Molina is a perfect example. Between his defense, the occasional hit at the plate, and even a little bit of hustle, Jose Molina has proven himself a valuable Rays player the last two years. That’s why, even at 38 years old, Molina was worth another two-year contract.