Rance Mulliniks turns 64 today.
The Blue Jays picked up Rance in trade from the Angels for pitcher Phil Huffman, before the 1980 season. Huffman never pitched for the Angels (he made 31 starts for us in 1979, going 6-18 with a 5.77 ERA, he wouldn’t pitch in the majors again until he got into 2 games for the Orioles in 1985). It is safe to say we won that trade.
In 1982 we didn’t have an obvious choice to play third base so manager Bobby Cox took a left-handed hitting back-up shortstop (Mulliniks) and a right-handed hitting back up second baseman (Garth Iorg) and turned them into a platoon at third base. It really was a good move, he took two players that really didn’t have a role: Mulliniks who really wasn’t a good enough defensively to play short and Iorg who wasn’t good enough offensively for a full time job at any position. So putting them together and getting the most out of their strengths, while minimizing their weaknesses, was a smart move. Over time we got decent production out of the position while not spending a lot of money. No wonder Bobby Cox in the Hall of Fame.
That first season the pairing wasn’t very productive; Rance only hit .244/.326/.363 in 112 games with only 4 home runs. But in 1983 things turned around for the Jays, we had our first winning season (starting a streak of 11 straight winning seasons), finishing 89-73 and Rance was a big part of that turn around hitting .275/.373/.467 for a OPS+ of 125. He also had 10 home runs. It was the start of a run of terrific seasons for Rance.
Rance never really had the power that you would like from a third baseman but he made up for that by having a good batting eye and keeping high on base percentages for the rest of his career. The next couple of years he had very similar seasons having OPS+ of 124 and 125 in 1984 and 1985. 1985 was our first time in the post season and Rance did well in our 7 game ALCS loss to the Royals, hitting .354/.462/.727 with a home run and 3 RBI.
1986 was the last season for the Mullinorg combination as Kelly Gruber shared time at third with Mulliniks in 1987. Rance continued to be effective batting .310/.371/.500 in 1987. In 1989 Gruber took over the third base job full time and Rance was moved over to a platoon DH with Cecil Fielder. Being the left-handed hitter in a platoon is the better part of the jig since you get the lion’s share of the at bats. In 1988 Rance had the best offensive season of his career hitting .300/.385/.475 and setting career highs with 12 homers and an OPS+ of 143.
1989 Rance saw his offensive numbers drop off big time, he had an OPS+ of just 88 and he had just 1 at bat in our 5 game ALCS loss to the A’s. In 1990 his role on the team changed again, he became a pinch hitter. In 1991 he was back in the DH platoon with Pat Tabler. He didn’t do well, with a OPS+ or 80. And, in 1992 he missed all of the season with a disk problem in his back; except for 3 at bats as a pinch hitter in September. And that was the end of his career.
I’ll admit Rance always was a favorite of mine; he seemed to me to be a player that got the most out of his limited talent. How could I not like? I mean Rance isn’t a big guy, not a power guy, not overly fast, didn’t really make the acrobatic plays in the field but made all the plays a third baseman should. He hit left-handed, wore glasses, was kind of an average sized fellow and was more than a little geeky looking. Darn near like cheering for myself, and yet he made himself into a valuable major league player.
I wasn’t a fan of his work as an analyst on the Jays broadcasts. He knew the game but he seemed to be afraid to allow any dead air. I prefer them to let the game breath at times. But now we have Tabler and I don’t think that’s an improvement.
Happy Birthday Rance. I hope it is a good one.
It is Tim Mayza ’s 28th birthday.
Tim was a 12th round draft pick in 2013. He made it to the majors in 2017 and spent that season and 2018 bouncing back and forth between Toronto and Buffalo.
In 2019 he spend the full season in the Jays bullpen, or he did until September 13th, when he blew out his elbow on the mound, one of the ugliest injuries we’ve ever witnessed during a Jays game. He’ll miss all of 2020 after Tommy John surgery.
Career he has a 4.67 ERA in 124 games.
Happy Birthday Tim. I hope rehab is going well.