Molitor keeps steady for wavering Blue Jays

SIDELIGHT

July 31, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

For the Toronto Blue Jays, the 1994 season has been a constant struggle to reach mediocrity.

Their pitching was bad, and the hitting was terrific, and when the pitchers got their collective acts together, the batters went south.

Even Joe Carter, who started the season by driving in runs on a Hack Wilson pace with 50 before June, has cooled to the point where he's third in baseball in RBIs.

The only consistent Blue Jay has been Paul Molitor, who started the season hot and has stayed that way.

For Molitor, who entered last night's game with the Orioles batting .348 -- fifth best in the American League, while ranking in the top 10 in five other categories -- the key to his success has been playing every day.

"I was asked in spring training if I could duplicate the numbers that I had last year and I stressed the importance of playing a lot of games. It meant a lot to me to play a lot last year and I guess my skills haven't declined this year," said Molitor, with a wry smile.

It's a good thing, too, for Toronto's sake, for Molitor's bat has been one of the few things that has kept the 1994 Blue Jays even remotely resembling the club that won the last two World Series.

"You can get over-analytical and try to find why we haven't done well, but at the start of the year, the lack of pitching depth cost us some games. Then, when the pitching finally did start to improve, the offense was worn down," said Molitor.

Whatever the reasons for their early season pall, the Blue Jays have turned it on since the All-Star break, winning nine of 13, crawling out of last place in the East.

And Molitor has been a catalyst, earning league Player of the Week honors last week, when he hit .500 with four homers and 10 RBI, and scoring 10 runs.

Molitor, who as recently as four years ago missed 60 games in one season, fueling a reputation for being injury-prone, has been anything but with Toronto, missing only two games last year and playing every day this season.

And while playing every day, Molitor, who will be 38 next month, has put up impressive numbers, batting .338 over 1 1/2 seasons in Toronto, after 15 years in Milwaukee.

His Blue Jays stats are just a continuation of an impressive career overall. In the last 16 seasons, Molitor has the highest batting average (.305) among players who have played in at least 2,000 games during that span.

Granted, that list is short, but it does include some rather impressive names, including George Brett, Robin Yount, Eddie Murray and Alan Trammell.

Since 1991, Molitor has more hits (760) and runs (426) than any other major leaguer, and with 2,630 hits overall, he has a fair chance to reach the 3,000-hit plateau, which would ensure a spot in the Hall of Fame.

"I can't project what's going to happen and I can't say that I'm more motivated because of that," said Molitor. "If that included a trip to the Hall of Fame, that would really be something considering I've missed 500 games. I'm not there yet."

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