Molitor led the majors in hitting with runners in scoring position last year (.411). He also is the best in such situations for the 1990s (.354), with Bonds second (.340). Further, Molitor is a decisively better hitter in the heat of postseason play (.368) than Bonds is (. 191).
Says Oakland pitcher Ron Darling, "Pitching to Molitor is like playing chess against Boris Spassky. It's a match of wits, and you can't help but feel he's one move ahead of you."
"It's not so much a chess game," Molitor says, "as it is cribbage. And I'm going to peg you to death."
The next time you see Marquis Grissom jetting from first base to second, count how many steps it takes him to make the trip. He'll be counting with you.
"People take baserunning for granted," says Grissom, the Atlanta Braves' new centerfielder. "You have to work on it like you work on hitting. You have to work on turning corners, work on running a straight line, and I count how many steps I take from first to second. I know when I have a bad jump by how many steps I take, and I know when I'm going to be thrown out by how many steps I take."
Grissom is not about to give away his magic number, which works an astonishing percentage of the time. He has swiped 266 bases in 314 career attempts, an 85% success rate. Moreover, he knows when to take the extra base. No wonder survey respondents chose Grissom by more than a two-to-one margin over his closest pursuers, Molitor and Lofton.
"He doesn't make any mistakes on the bases," says Pittsburgh Pirate coach Bill Virdon. "He always gets what he's supposed to. If it's supposed to be a double, he gets a double. If it's supposed to be a triple, he gets a triple. And he can steal about whenever he wants to."
The bad news for Grissom, who was traded on April 6 from the Montreal Expos to Atlanta, is that he'll be playing more games this year on grass than on artificial turf, which historically has meant fewer opportunities on the base paths for him. Grissom is a career .284 hitter on rugs but only .266 on grass fields, such as the one in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The Marquis de Sod he's not.