Today is the Birthday of former Blue Jays Paul Molitor and Drew Hutchison. And, far more importantly, it’s my wife’s Birthday. We had a lovely day yesterday going bowling, playing pool and darts with our boys, and having a meal with no cheese doodles in sight (which makes it a fancy meal in my books).
Molitor is 65 today.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, he was a 1st round pick in the 1977 amateur draft, the 3rd pick overall (Harold Baines and Bill Gullickson went before him) out of the University of Minnesota. The Jays’ first pick that year was Tom Goffena. Pat Gillick’s time with the Jays wasn’t filled with great draft picks. We drafted at the bottom of the first round, MLB’s way of sticking it to the Expansion teams.
After only 64 games of A ball, Paul started the 1978 season with the Brewers. He finished 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting to Lou Whitaker. He played 15 years for the Brewers, making the All-Star team five times and receiving MVP votes in 6 different seasons finishing 5th in the voting in 1987. Milwaukee’s ‘Harvey Wall Bangers’ made the playoffs in 1981 and made it to the World Series in 1982, losing to the Cardinals. Bill James called the Brewers infield of Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Robin Yount and Molitor the best infield in the majors in the 1980’s and the 5th best infield of all time.
He was moved around the infield and even played CF one season for the Brewers as they didn’t seem to realize he was the sort of player for whom you moved the other guys around. Paul was also kind of injury-prone in his time there.
In 1993 the Jays signed him as a free agent to replace Dave Winfield at DH. Winfield went to the Twins as a free agent. At the time of the trade, I remember the anchor on Sports Desk saying the Jays finally had a leadoff man, but Cito continued to us Devon White in the leadoff spot. Molitor came through with one of the best seasons of his career, batting .332/.402/.509, finishing 2nd in the league with 121 runs and driving in 111. He also led the lead in plate appearances (725), hits (211), batting average in late innings of close games (.411), and with runners in scoring position (.384). At 36, he set a record for being the oldest player to drive in 100 runs for the first time. He also hit 22 homers and stole 22 bases. He finished 2nd to Frank Thomas in the MVP vote. Fangraphs credits him with a 5.2 WAR that year, his best number with the Jays.
Molitor was terrific in the playoffs, hitting .391 in the ALCS win over the White Sox, scoring 7 runs and driving in 5 with 1 homer. In the Series, he hit .500 with 2 homers, 2 triples, and 2 doubles in our win over the Phillies, scoring 10 runs and driving in another 8 to win the Series MVP, and he was on base for Joe Carter’s series-winning home run. The enduring memory, for me, is him hugging Cito and crying after they won. In a long, terrific career, this was his first and only World Series win.
1994, the lockout year, Paul was having just as good a season, hitting .341/.410/.518 before the owners locked the doors. He made the All-Star team for the 4th season in a row and finished 18th in the MVP vote, but the Jays didn’t do as well. They ended up 55-60. The amazing stat, at the age of 38, was 20 for 20 as a base stealer. In the shortened 1995 season, Paul’s numbers fell off, finishing at .270/.350/.423, and the Jays had a bad season that year, too, finishing 5th.
Rob Neyer picked Molitor as the Jays best DH ever, and we did too in our Best DH poll. Bill James called Molitor 3rd greatest leadoff man of all time behind Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines and the 8th best third baseman of all time. One strange thing about his career is that he was very injury-prone in the first ten years, and he played almost every day in the second half of his career.
After the season, he signed with the Twins as a free agent to finish his career playing for his hometown team. Paul had a terrific career ending with 3319 hits, 504 stolen bases, and a Hall of Fame Plaque.
Molitor became manager of the Twins in 2015 and led them until the end of the 2018 season. He’s a special assistant with the Twins now.
Hutchison turns 31 today.
He was our 15th round draft pick in 2009. He quickly moved up our minor league system and was called up to the Blue Jays at the end of April in 2012. He made 11 starts and then went on the DL. In August, he would have Tommy John surgery. He wouldn’t pitch for a year, making it back to the mound in August 2013, with the Bisons making 10 appearances for them.
Drew started the 2014 season in Toronto and made 32 starts for us. He went 11-13 with a 4.48 ERA.
In 2015 he was our opening day starter, going 6 innings and winning against the Yankees. He finished the season with a 13-5 record but a 5.57 ERA in 30 games, 28 starts
2016 didn’t go well. Drew started the season in Buffalo, and, at the end of April, he came up for a spot start. He wasn’t bad, 5.2 innings, 4 hits, 2 earned, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts. The bad mark was 2 home runs. In early July, he was called up for a couple of appearances and then back to Buffalo.
On August 1st, the Jays traded him to the Pirates for Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire, and Harold Ramirez. The trade worked out for us. Liriano had a 2.29 ERA down the stretch for us, and we made the playoffs.
Since the trade, Hutchison has gone from the Pirates, Phillies, Rangers, Dodgers, Twins, Yankees, Angels, back to the Yankees, and Twins again. This year he is with the Tigers and is making the start today against the Jays. But I hope his day goes well, except for the start.
I do admire him for keeping at it.
It is also Carl Yastrzemski’s Birthday. He is 82. Carl was a favorite of mine when I was young. I tried to copy his batting stance (which changed as he aged, as his bat slowed, he simplified his stance to get to the ball quicker). Carl played 23 seasons in the majors, all with the Red Sox. He finished with 3419 hits and 452 home runs and won the Triple Crown in 1967. I thought he would be the last one to do that, but then Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012.
His grandson is having a good season MLB season, which is making me feel old.
Happy Birthday to Paul, Drew, Carl and, of course, my wife.