Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Two sides of the coin, and Nestor Molina

In 2006, third baseman Nestor Molina was signed by the Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent.  He lasted two seasons as an infielder, and that was it.

What was the problem?

No offense, Nestor, but... no offense.

Faced with a third baseman who was ineffective at the plate, Toronto converted the young Venezuelan to pitching.  Oh, yes, Nestor Molina could pitch.  He ripped through the Dominican Summer League in 2008, posting a 0.96 ERA while allowing just a .213 batting average to the opposition.  The ERA rose the next season, all the way up to a sparkling 1.69 in the Gulf Coast League, earning Molina a promotion to Auburn by the end of the year.

Nestor Molina began the 2010 season in the Lansing Lugnuts' bullpen.  He was quiet, walked around with a secret, knowing grin, was very meticulous about his eyebrows and his appearance -- and he was just awful on the mound in April, giving up runs in six of his first eight appearances.  It all hit rock bottom amid a six-hit, five-run, one-inning disaster against Fort Wayne on April 21st.  Molina finished April with an 8.71 ERA, and I was dreading the moments that the Lugs called him in to pitch.

And then, suddenly, things turned around:  A 1.64 ERA in May.  A 2.93 ERA in June, though four of his five earned runs for the month all came in the same game; his other eight appearances were near spotless.  In July, magnificence:  21 innings, four saves (his only four saves of the season), a 0.86 ERA, and only five hits allowed in 64 at-bats, a .078 average against.  According to my memory, I believe that he and pitching coach Tony Caceres credited the addition (and mastery) of a split-finger change-up to his repertoire as the reason for his turnaround.  Nestor was promoted to Dunedin for a couple of season-ending appearances, finishing the year on a high note.

If 2010 was a success for Molina, 2011 was a revelation.

After serving as a full-time reliever (with rare spot-starting duties) for the previous three seasons of his pitching career, Nestor began the season in the Dunedin starting rotation.  He blew out of the gates in fine fashion, struck out 10 Charlotte Stone Crabs on May 25th, held the Crabs hitless over five innings on July 21st, and posted a remarkable 10-3 record with a 2.58 ERA and 115 strikeouts compared to just 14 walks in 108 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays took notice, promoting him to Double-A New Hampshire.  Facing tougher, older competition, Nestor Molina continued to excel.  He debuted with six innings of four-hit, one-run, eight-strikeout ball against Akron -- the only earned run he allowed in 22 innings spanning five starts in the Eastern League.  Even more impressively, he struck out 33 batters while walking just two and limited the EL to a .156 batting average.

*

On Tuesday, December 6th, 2011, the Chicago White Sox traded closer Sergio Santos straight up to the Toronto Blue Jays for Nestor Molina.  Santos begins the 2012 season as the Blue Jays' closer.  Molina begins the season as Baseball America's #2 prospect in the White Sox system.

In the bluntest of terms, if you're a Jays fan, you want Sergio Santos to succeed, and you want Nestor Molina to fail.  In the kindest of terms, you don't want this trade to work out in any way that doesn't favor the Blue Jays.

I work in the Toronto system.  I work alongside Toronto employees, from coaches to scouts to players to the athletic trainer to the strength & conditioning coach to the video coordinator.  I want to see the Toronto Blue Jays succeed.  I've never met Sergio Santos in my life, but I want to see him succeed.

But I am a Lansing Lugnuts employee.  I work in the Lansing Lugnuts front office.  I accept a paycheck from the Lansing Lugnuts.  I know Lansing Lugnuts fans far better than I know Toronto Blue Jays fans.  I want to see Lansing Lugnuts succeed.  I want to see Lugnuts succeed no matter what uniform they wear.

I'm rooting for Tim Collins in Kansas City, Tyler Pastornicky in Atlanta, Johermyn Chavez in Seattle, and on and on...  If, say, Carlos Perez was traded to San Diego Padres, I'd root for Carlos to succeed as a Padre.  If Michael Crouse went to the hated New York Yankees, yes, somehow, I'd find it in my heart to hope he does well as a Yankee.

I know Nestor Molina.  I want Nestor to succeed.  (Hopefully yesterday was just a bump in the road.)

No offense.

1 comment:

Rob Parish said...

Another great read Jesse!