- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The Brewers, because of what Selig called the limited resources of a small-market team, offered Molitor an $800,000 pay cut to $2.3 million for 1993, with an option for '94. Toronto offered him $13 million over three years. On Dec. 8, only hours after Carter had re-signed with the Blue Jays, Molitor, with a bit of reluctance, accepted Toronto's offer.
Still, Molitor didn't think of himself as a Blue Jay until about six weeks into the season. By June 25, when he returned to Milwaukee's County Stadium, his heartbreak had healed. He sat across from Selig in the owner's office and said, "I was the victim of the system, wasn't I?" Now Molitor realizes, "There wasn't anyone to blame."
Molitor batted .361 after the All-Star break and finished at .332, with career highs for home runs (22) and runs batted in (111). Thanks in part to the fact that the Jays used him almost entirely as a DH, he had stayed off the disabled list for a third straight season—a first for him. Over those three seasons, no one in baseball has had more hits or runs. He has cut down his swing to a nearly perfect, economical motion. He holds his hands still until the last possible moment; then, with virtually no stride, he attacks the baseball with a quick, powerful stabbing action. But it took a record six straight hits in the American League Championship Series and a .500 World Series batting average for the beauty of his swing—and his entire career—to be properly appreciated.
"That," he says, "is almost humorous to me. The things I've done this year, if you don't count my injuries, aren't a lot different than what I've done before."
There he stood at the plate in the ninth inning last Saturday night, better than ever at 37. With one out and Rickey Henderson on base, Molitor told himself, Man, you hit a two-run homer and you win the Series. But then he quickly corrected that notion and thought, No, play the percentages. Keep the rally moving.
Seated behind him, in a special box, was Selig, the acting commissioner. "It hurts, no question about it," Selig would say after the game. "I wanted nothing more than for Paul to win a world championship in Milwaukee. But I was not as emotional watching it as I thought I would be. We have to change the salary system. Something is very wrong when he wants to stay, and we want him, and he can't stay."
Molitor laced a fastball into centerfield for a single. Carter, batting next, then hit one into eternity. One of the first to congratulate Molitor in the clubhouse was Selig, who hugged him, kissed him lightly on the cheek and said, "I'm happy for you." When Selig left the clubhouse, Molitor's wife, Linda, threw her arms around the owner and shouted, "Thank you!" to the man who had made a world championship possible for her husband.
Molitor was touched that so many of his teammates "went out of their way to tell me how much it meant to them to see me win." As pitcher Al Leiter said, "We've had so much success here that people begin to think, 'When are we going to play, and who are we going to beat.' Then he comes here after all he's been through, and you see how precious winning is."
Pat Hentgen, a 24-year-old Blue Jay pitcher in his first full season in the big leagues, hugged Molitor around the neck. It was a minute until Hentgen let go. Then Hentgen sat down and wiped his eyes.
Molitor, save those few moments on the field, kept his emotions under control. He has made a career of maintaining the same emotional speed and pitch—"Like riding a merry-go-round," he said—so why lose it now? A good ballplayer always respects the game. Someone told him in the Blue Jay clubhouse that he was wanted in the interview room. Molitor headed toward the door with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a can of beer in the other. Suddenly he stopped. "I better not take these with me," he said. "It might not look too good." He bent and placed them underneath a desk and then walked out, a world champion.