Family ties: Bengie Molina chooses Yadier over Posey in NLCS


Family ties: Bengie Molina chooses Yadier over Posey in NLCS

ST. LOUIS Catchers are getting a lot of attention in this NLCS,and for good reason. Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are team leaders, All-Starbackstops and are likely to appear at or near the top of most National LeagueMVP ballots.

Its an even more intriguing matchup when one of them isyour former protg and the other is your kid brother.

I tell you, this is a privilege for me, said BengieMolina, Yadiers oldest brother and Poseys forerunner behind the plate for theGiants. And not just for me. This is a privilege for anyone who enjoys thegame of baseball. Its a joy to watch these two kids compete.

These are two catchers who can play the position and call agreat game. But its not just that. They can hit, too. They can do everything.That right there is the beauty of baseball.

Its a beauty that Bengie Molina appreciated early on. Theday the Cardinals drafted Yadier in the fourth round, Bengie predicted that hisbrother would become a superstar and the best, most accomplished of the threecatching Molina brothers. In 2009, just a week into Poseys first big leaguespring training camp, Molina understood that this clean-cut, bright-eyed kidfrom Florida State would take his job very, very soon.

It came quicker than anyone anticipated; the Giants shippedout Bengie a month ahead of the trade deadline in 2010 to the Texas Rangers.Then Poseys Giants tore through Bengies Rangers in the World Series.

Yet Bengie never spoke a jealous or resentful word aboutPosey, whom he still considers a friend.

He has to be honest, though, when asked where his loyaltieslie between the two catchers in this series.

Everybody knows what I think of Posey, Bengie told me by phone. Hesa great, great catcher, he calls a great game and I knew this kid would be asuperstar the first time I saw him. But I dont think hes up to the defensiveskills of my brother yet. My brother is in another league, and plus this yearhe really hit when the team needed him to hit.

Posey can get there. Im not putting him down at all. Hehas all the talent and he will work hard, I know that. But nobody is in aleague with my brother.

The Molina brothers will gather in Puerto Rico next monthwhen their mother, Gladys, turns 65. They would like nothing better than tocelebrate another World Series champion, too.

If the Cardinals go all the way, it would be Yadiers thirdWorld Series ring and the sixth among all three Molina brothers. (Jose won in2002 as Bengies backup with the Angels, and also in 2009 with the Yankees.)

Bengie left no doubt: Thats what he hopes will happen.

Hey, against the Reds, I was all Giants, man all Giants,Bengie said, with a chuckle. Against the Cards, Im all Cards. I love theGiants, I love the city and I love the fans, man, they have something specialthere. But Ive got to root for my brother, 100 percent, theyve got tounderstand that.

Bengie cannot help but pull for Posey, though, and not justbecause he respects him as a player and a person. Like many others, he wasfloored at Poseys determined recovery from the devastating ankle injury thatended his season in May of last year.

Very impressed, very impressed, he said. It tells you --it shows you -- what kind of a player and a person he is. It shows you hisdemeanor and dedication and his motivation to come back from that devastatinginjury, and not come back to play first base, but to catch. Hell be the MVP ofthe league.

What he did is unheard of, its crazy. But this is not newfor him. When I saw this kid, I think he can do anything.

Bengie was quick to point out that Yadier is just asdeserving of MVP consideration.

Especially for what he did for that team after losing(Albert) Pujols, and with a new manager, he said. But if Buster wins it, thatis a good choice, too.

What impresses him most about the way his brother receivesthe Cardinals staff?

Its the way he cares, Bengie said. Its what we used todiscuss all the time. I tell him, Everyone wants to be their best out there,but you have to be the best for yourself and you have to make every pitcher on thestaff be their best, too. Thats what impresses me. He makes everybody great.

Bengie said Yadier expressed frustration to him in recentdays about his lack of hitting in the postseason. He had a breakout year at theplate (.315, 22 home runs), but owns just a .138 average in the No.5 spot withjust two RBIs in seven postseason games.

Hey, I told him, Win a game with your catching, Bengiesaid. If you hit three bloopers and go 3 for 4, does that make you a greathitter? No. So dont worry about what the numbers look like. Just be positive.

Thats precisely the kind of message Bengie would deliver toTim Lincecum on the mound during both the right-handers Cy Young seasons in2008-09. Its the kind of rah-rah cheerleading that comes less natural toPosey, which is among the reasons that a struggling Lincecum has been paired sooften with backup catcher Hector Sanchez in this wild aberration of a season.

What advice would Bengie give to Buster about catchingTimmy?

Well, one of the things you have to know about Timmy is youhave to keep him very positive and very up, he said. Its about keeping himon the right track instead of letting things going through his head.

You have to talk to him almost every inning and keep him upto the challenge and keep him happy. Its a psychologist sort of thing, but asa catcher, you do that with every pitcher in different way. You have to psychehim up to go out and pitch.

Youve got to suck up your pride and go to him an say,Lets go.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy continues to insist that its hispreference, and nobody elses, that Lincecum and Barry Zito work primarily withSanchez. The manager only started Sanchez once this postseason, when Zitostarted Game 4 of the NLDS at Cincinnati and Lincecum came out of the bullpento throw 4 13 solid innings. Lincecum threw to Posey in his two other reliefappearances this postseason, tossing a total of four scoreless innings.

Bochy hasnt named Lincecum the Game 4 starter yet, nor ishe committing to a batterymate whenever Lincecum or Zito take the mound again.

Bengie was blunt, though: Its high time that Posey andLincecum, the Giants two highest profile players, work together again.

If you ask me, they need to stop this, Bengie said. Iunderstand they are keeping Posey healthy by having him play first base and notcatch all the time. But there will come a day when Brandon Belt says, This isnot fair. I want to be out there. And then youll have trouble.

They need to take control and say, Buster has got to catchTimmy and thats it. I want to keep everybody happy, but this is our team.

For now, only one of these two teams and one of these twoAll-Star catchers -- can advance to the World Series. Even in retirement,Bengie watches his brother and his former understudy and feels the stirrings ofbeing an active player once again.

Those guys, they wanted to learn so much, he said. Nowthey are so good, there is nothing left to teach them.

With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani


With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants continue to wait for a resolution to the Giancarlo Stanton chase, they may soon find themselves bidding on another superstar talent they have long coveted. 

According to multiple reports, Major League Baseball, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreed to a new posting system that should allow Shohei Ohtani to be made available in about 10 days. Joel Sherman of the NY Post reported that MLB owners must ratify the agreement next Friday and Ohtani would then be posted that day or the following day. 

The Giants have made no secret of their desire to jump feet-first into that process, and general manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley visited Japan in September to scout Ohtani, a potential two-way star. Ohtani wants to be a starter and a hitter in the big leagues, as he was in Japan, and after watching tape of the 23-year-old, Bruce Bochy said he would be on board. 

"He's good," Bochy said after a game at Dodger Stadium late in the season. "I absolutely would play him every day."

There has been little clarity over the past two months as MLB teams have waited for the negotiations to play out. Per Sherman, there will be new posting rules in future years but Ohtani will operate under the old system. That limits the Giants to a $300,000 bonus because they went over their spending limit in 2015, but club officials don't believe that will disqualify them. Very little is known about Ohtani's preferences, but by coming to the United States in 2017, he is potentially forfeiting a $200 million deal as a free agent. That alone is enough to validate the fact that the Giants can safely chase Ohtani, knowing that the signing bonus won't be a deal breaker.

MLB crushes Braves with sanctions for international signing infractions


MLB crushes Braves with sanctions for international signing infractions

ATLANTA -- The Braves lost 13 prospects and former general manager John Coppolella was banned for life by Major League Baseball on Tuesday for circumventing international signing rules from 2015-17.

Former Atlanta special assistant Gordon Blakeley, who was the team's international scouting chief, was suspended from baseball for one year by Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Sanctions imposed by Manfred will leave the Braves unable to bargain at full strength for a top Latin American prospect until 2021.

Manfred said MLB's investigation determined the Braves moved international signing bonus pool money from one player to boost another player's contract.

Most notable among the players the Braves will lose is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016.

Other "high-value" players the Braves will lose include Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Pena, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga.

Three more international signees - Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre - were declared free agents. The team's contract with prospect Ji-Hwan Bae, which was not yet final, was disapproved. Finally, the Braves were banned from signing prospect Robert Puason in the 2019-20 signing period.

The 13 players will be free to negotiate as free agents with other teams.

Also, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 draft as punishment for offering "impermissible benefits" to an unnamed draft pick in an effort to convince him to sign for a lower bonus.

The investigation showed the players signed by the Braves in 2016-17 would have been unavailable if the team had not circumvented the rules by moving bonus pool money.

Manfred said stripping the Braves of the 13 players was not sufficient punishment. He said "additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the club for the violations committed by its employees."

Therefore, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period. Also, the team's international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.

The Braves already cannot give an international signing bonus of more than $300,000 for 2017-18 and 2018-19 as penalties for exceeding their signing bonus pools under baseball's previous labor contract.

And there is still more discipline to be handed down.

Manfred said he intends "to discipline other Braves international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct."

Coppolella was forced to resign after the season. Former team president John Hart was moved to a senior adviser role when a new general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, was hired on Nov. 13. Hart left the team on Friday.

"The senior baseball operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves," Manfred said. He also said the Braves "cooperated throughout the investigation."

Coppolella did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

The Braves braced fans for the sanctions when team chairman Terry McGuirk apologized to fans "on behalf of the entire Braves family" for the rules violations at the news conference to introduce Anthopoulos.

The Braves said in a statement released Tuesday they "understand and accept the decision regarding the penalties that have been handed down.

"As we expressed last week, our organization has not lived up to the standard our fans expect from us and that we expect from ourselves. For that, we apologize. We are instituting the changes necessary to prevent this from ever happening again and remain excited about the future of Braves baseball."

Manfred said he is confident the Braves management team led by McGuirk, Anthopoulos and vice chairman John Schuerholz "have and will put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again and which will allow the club to emerge from this difficult period as the strong and respected franchise that it has always been."

The Braves are not the first team to be found guilty of violating rules in signing international players.

In 2016, the Boston Red Sox lost five players and were banned from signing international amateur free agents for one year as punishment for rules violations on signing bonuses.