When the Milwaukee Brewers were an American League team, I followed them fairly closely and went to a game or two every year at old County Stadium.
In doing so I came to appreciate the talents of Paul Molitor. For those of you who started following baseball in the 1990s you likely remember Molitor as a DH for the Twins and Blue Jays, the World Series MVP for Toronto in 1993.
But before injuries forced him into the DH role, he was a slick-fielding second baseman who helped lead the Brewers into the World Series in 1982, still the only Fall Classic the Brewers have participated in.
Molitor is a Hall of Famer, but looking at his career you’ll see just how many games injuries took from him, including almost the entire 1984 season. He was 27 years old that year, and that took away one of his prime years. By my estimates injuries cost him at least 250 games. Molitor averaged 1.237 hits per game over his career, so he could have potentially had as many as 310 more hits had he been healthy. Add that to his career total of 3,319 and he’s just one hit behind Stan Musial for fourth on the all-time list. (Molitor also lost at least 100 games to labor stoppages.)
He stole 504 bases in his career, including 30 or more seven times, and had some power, too, with 234 career homers.
I always enjoyed watching him play. He’s my favorite non-Cub of all time. (And I wish the Brewers would go back to wearing those pinstripes and the interlocking ball-and-glove cap from that photo full-time. It’s one of the best logos ever.)
Among current players, I’ve appreciated the talents of Andrew McCutchen (at least when he’s not playing against the Cubs). McCutchen had a remarkably consistent career, at a high level (league MVP in 2013) until a down year, by his standards at least, in 2016. I hope he recovers to play well again -- at least, against teams other than the Cubs.
And I will go out of my way to watch a game Justin Verlander pitches. The way he carves up hitters, saving some of his best stuff for later innings, is a throwback to pitchers like Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson. I give Verlander a lot of credit, too, for returning to very close to his Cy Young level of pitching in 2016 after a couple of down seasons, finishing second in the Cy balloting. He turns 34 in a couple of weeks and should get close to 190 career wins in 2017. If he stays healthy he’s got an outside shot at 300 wins, a difficult level to reach in modern baseball. He’s almost certainly going to be a Hall of Famer.
So those two are my favorites to watch among current players.
Now it’s your turn. Incidentally, in choosing your favorite among all non-Cubs, it’s okay if the player was briefly a Cub, say at the end of his career. But the player should have played the overwhelming majority of the time for other teams.