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Top 40 All-Time Greatest Blue Jays: #27 Rance Mulliniks

Steven Rance Mulliniks | 3B/DH/SS | 1982-1992 | Career Stats

Rance Mulliniks was born in Tulare, California; he went to Monache High School in Porterville, California; and he was selected in the third round of the 1974 amateur entry draft by the California Angels. What appeared to be a lifelong relationship -- both personally and professionally -- with the state of California instead became an eleven-year stay in the Great White North as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

In California, Mulliniks came up as a shortstop. Either way, his path to an everyday job at third base was blocked by a prospect who was drafted a year after he was and, coincidentally enough, in the third round. Carney Lansford, who would go on to become the 1981 AL batting champion, was that prospect. Therefore, Mulliniks split time at shortstop with Dave Chalk, who received the brunt of the playing time. To be frank, Mulliniks simply didn't play very well. For example, in 119 at-bats with the Royals in 1981, he posted a putrid OPS of .490. Not surprisingly, he was subsequently traded to Kansas City as part of a five-player trade.

In Kansas City, Mulliniks progress as a player was at a standstill. In two seasons as a Royal, he only appeared in 60 games for a total of 99 at-bats. The everyday third base job was blocked by Hall of Famer George Brett, but since the offensively challenged U.L. Washington was his main competition at shortstop, that everyday job was his for the taking. However, in his limited time at the position, he failed to impress, either offensively or defensively. For instance, by projecting the amount of errors he made as a Royal in 1981 over a full season (somewhat unfair, I guess), he would have made close to 40 of them. By the end of that season, he was already 25 years old and it was eminently obvious that he didn't have a long-term future in Kansas City. During the spring training that preceded the 1982 season, Mulliniks was traded to the Blue Jays in exchange for underachieveing starting pitcher Philip Huffman. In short, this is easily one of the most favourably lopsided trades in the history of the franchise. Huffman didn't even appear in one game as a Royal, and following the trade he would only go on to pitch another 4.2 innings as a professional. Mulliniks, on the other hand, became a long-time fixture in Toronto, and helped a young team emerge as a force in the American League for years to come.

Mulliniks is the only batter in the top 40 who wasn't an everyday player. Although he received a substantial amount of playing time every season, he perenially was the left-handed portion of a platoon at third base. Until 1987, his sixth season with the Blue Jays, he and Garth Iorg formed a platoon that affectionately became known as "Mullinorg." Also, according to Dave Till's Memory Project, as something that was perhaps a little too affectionate, fans would yell "Orgy, Orgy!" during Iorg's at-bats. And despite the fact that Iorg was a poor hitter, Mulliniks shouldered his share of the load rather effectively.

He lacked the power of a prototypical third baseman. However, he was capable of drawing walks and reaching base at a fairly good clip. In fact, he had one of the largest turnaround in that area, according to a study done by Mike Carminati. From 1982-1992, he had the fourth highest OBP (.365) on the team of anyone who played at least one full season's worth of baseball (502 PA). In that same period, however, Iorg had the fourth lowest (.297) total. Naturally, that diminished the tandem's overall effectiveness. In a sense, it's odd that this platoon lasted as long as it did, because Iorg was obviously a poor hitter whose defense didn't overcome his offensive deficiencies. Even if the Blue Jays were unwilling or unable to find a replacement for Iorg, it's bizarre that Mulliniks wasn't given more of an opportunity to face left-handed pitchers. In his career, he only had 270 AB (or a mere 8% of his total career at-bats) and put up a batting line of .230/.305/.337. Of course, that total's not exactly worth writing home about, but Iorg's wasn't much better. In his career Iorg accumulated 1,398 at-bats against left-handed pitchers for a batting line of .268/.304/.373. Now, had Mulliniks been given more time to hone his skills against southpaws, surely he could've outperformed that total. And Mulliniks was, by most accounts, the superior defensive player anyway, which only adds to the situation's intrigue.

In one of the most memorable games in Blue Jays history, the team set a major league record by hitting ten home runs in one game. On September 14, 1987 against the sad-sack Baltimore Orioles, Mulliniks, who only had eleven home runs during the entire 1987 season, hit two that night to help lead the team to an 18-3 victory. Also of note is that Cal Ripken Jr. ended his streak of 8,243 consecutive innings played when he was substituted for pinch runner Ron Washington in the 8th inning of that game.

Mulliniks never possessed much natural athletic ability (at least relative to his athletic contemporaries), and that encompassed the realm of baserunning. In his career, he stole fifteen bases and was caught twelve times. That translated into a 56% stolen base ratio, which is considered subpar by any standard. Despite his shortcomings on the basepaths, he became the first player to ever hit an inside-the-park home run in the Skydome. On July 11, 1991 against the Texas Rangers, Mulliniks, an everyday DH by that point in his career, hit a shot that flew over the head of Rangers left fielder Kevin Reimer. Well, after plenty of huffing, puffing, and gasping for breath, he made it all the way home. In fact, throughout his career with the Blue Jays, Mulliniks was the proprietary owner of a number of team firsts. BaseballLibrary.com
briefly summarizes his fantastic feats:

When he retired in 1992, he had set several Blue Jay club records at the plate, including the highest single season batting average (.324 in 1984), most doubles by a lefthanded batter (34 in 1983), most seasons leading the club in pinch hits (three), most consecutive hits (eight), and most consecutive times on base (10).
Top 10 Toronto Blue Jays Batting Ranks (min. 2000 PA):