Here's the catch: Molina faces Giants in WS
Popular backstop traded from San Francisco to Texas in June
When the Giants clinched the National League pennant on Saturday night, Bengie Molina's past and present converged, and in more ways than one.
The Rangers' 36-year-old catcher began the season with the Giants, his fourth in San Francisco. He was traded to the Rangers on June 30, in part because his numbers were down, in part because the Giants wanted to bolster the bullpen by adding Chris Ray, in part because a phenom named Buster Posey needed playing time.
Now with Texas, Molina is in the second World Series of his career, playing against the Giants club he was dealt from -- the same Giants franchise his Angels beat in seven games in the 2002 World Series.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no catcher has ever played in the World Series against a team he played for that same season.
One example of this happening is that Lonnie Smith played for the Royals against the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series. St. Louis traded him to Kansas City for outfielder John Morris, who did not face the Royals in the Series. Kansas City prevailed in seven games.
"I don't really care who we play," Molina said on Friday, before the Giants clinched. "But I'll tell you, the Giants, I wish they could win, because I have a lot of friends and guys that I love over there. We were like brothers, so I wish them the best."
Molina will know what's coming when the World Series gets under way Wednesday in San Francisco, or he'll at least have a better idea than anyone else in the Rangers dugout. That could be a distinct advantage. Those Cy Youngs Tim Lincecum won in 2008 and '09? Molina was his catcher.
"He's definitely molded me into a better pitcher," Lincecum said Wednesday. "He's the one calling the pitches and I'm the one agreeing, and obviously I get the last say and everything, but if it hadn't been for him reading all the batters, knowing how the batters swing, he's a seasoned vet that knows a lot about every single guy that comes up."
The 79 saves Giants closer Brian Wilson notched in 2008 and 2009? Almost all Molina, too.
"Well-deserving for that guy," Wilson said Saturday after nailing down a five-out save in the Giants' 3-2 win over Philadelphia. "What a great character he was in the clubhouse. Professional catcher. He honed my skills to pitch.
"I'm happy for him, but now I'm going to have to get him out. That's my No. 1 priority, even though he's going to know what's coming."
Molina's second World Series appearance could mean a fifth World Series title for he and his brothers. Jose Molina won a ring as Bengie's backup on the 2002 Angels and another for the Yankees last season, and Yadier Molina was a world champ in 2006 with the Cardinals.
It's possible, even, that Molina will take a World Series ring home no matter who wins. If the Giants win, no doubt they'd owe credit to the backstop who guided their pitching staff and tutored Posey. Molina is one of only three two-time winners of the "Willie Mac" Award as the Giants' most inspirational player.
"When I was with the Giants, I became a brother. I became a father, sometimes," Molina said after he was traded. "I became a guy who took aside a lot of the young kids and talked to them about not only baseball, but life itself."
Molina hit .257 with three home runs in 61 games for San Francisco this season, and hit .276 with 58 home runs in his combined three and half seasons there. When he was traded, Molina told the Texas media that he felt a shock, and understandably, a sense of unfamiliarity walking into a new clubhouse. He went on to hit .240 with a pair of home runs in 57 games for the Rangers.
In this year's playoffs, Molina has been a serious threat at the bottom of the Rangers' batting order. In the ALDS versus Tampa, he hit .313 (5-for-16) with a home run and five RBIs. In the ALCS versus the Yankees, he hit .357 (5-for-14) with a home run and two RBIs.
"You've got to turn the page, because they didn't want you there," Molina said in early July. "I'm not necessarily talking about the players, but the ownership and GM obviously traded me. You've got to turn the page and you've got to see the positives. The positive is we're in first place and we're trying to win the whole thing.
"At the same time, when I got to the Giants, I didn't really know any of them," Molina continued. "I was kind of in the same situation. They were depending a lot on me and all that, so I take it the same way. I'm up for the challenge."
He and the Rangers have one big challenge left.
Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.