With rosters expanding yesterday the Rays called up speedster Desmond Jennings from Triple-A and started him in right field. They also had Carl Crawford in left field and B.J. Upton in center field, which has me wondering whether it could have been the fastest outfield in baseball history.
I’m not sure exactly how to measure such a thing, but I do know that it’d be tough to find three players with more collective speed than Crawford, Upton, and Jennings, let alone three speedier guys who all started together in the same outfield.
Crawford has the most triples (100) and second-most steals (403) in MLB since debuting in 2002, averaging 12 three-baggers and 50 stolen bases per 150 games while also ranking as one of the best defensive left fielders of all time. Upton is a very good defensive center fielder and has the sixth-most steals in baseball since becoming a regular in 2007, swiping 44 bases in 2008, 42 last season, and 37 so far this year. And Jennings might be faster than both of them, averaging 61 steals per 150 games in the minors.
They all have 50-steal speed, they all would be plus center fielders, and they were all in the same outfield last night in Tampa Bay. And they even have a good nickname, as Rays fans have taken to calling Crawford, Upton, and Jennings the “Stallionaires.”
I went to Baseball-Reference.com in search of some other incredibly speedy outfield trios and found that since 1920 just six teams have had three outfielders with 30 or more steals. Obviously that isn’t the definitive word on speedy trios, since Jennings and other call-ups like him wouldn’t crack the list and neither would part-time outfielders, but it does provide a good starting point for the discussion.
Here are the six 30-steal outfield trios:
YEAR TEAM OUTFIELDERS
2001 Mariners Ichiro Suzuki, Mike Cameron, Mark McLemore
1990 White Sox Lance Johnson, Sammy Sosa, Ivan Calderon
1988 Astros Kevin Bass, Billy Hatcher, Gerald Young
1985 Cardinals Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Andy Van Slyke
1983 Braves Brett Butler, Claudell Washington, Dale Murphy
1983 Cardinals Willie McGee, David Green, Lonnie Smith
Lots of “speediest outfield of all time” possibilities there, for sure, but I really think there’s a decent chance the 14,859 fans at Tropicana Field last night may have seen some history made. Aside from the six outfield trios listed above, what are some other contenders for the title? Remember, the speedsters only need to have played in the same outfield for a single game to qualify.
The Cleveland Indians and outfielder Brandon Guyer avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $5 million contract with a club option for 2019.
The Indians acquired Guyer from the Rays at last year’s trade deadline. After coming to Cleveland he posted a line of .333/.438/.469 in 38 games. He’s a .262/.349/.402 hitter over 344 games in five seasons in the bigs. He has led the league in being hit by pitches for the past two seasons, getting plunked 24 times in 2015 and 31 times in 2016. He went 6-for-18 with four walks and two HBPs in the playoffs for Cleveland. The man will work to get on base, my friends. And he can play all three outfield positions.
The Braves have trained at Walt Disney World for several years. The lease is up, however, and they’ve been on the hunt for a new facility for some time. Disney is just too geographically remote from most of the Grapefruit League facilities so they’ve looked on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for some time.
Their search appears to be over, however, as they have reached an agreement to move to Sarasota:
The Atlanta Braves formally plan to move the team’s spring training home to North Port in 2019, the team and Sarasota County announced Tuesday afternoon.
The announcement set the stage for final negotiations this spring on a contract to bring the Major League Baseball team to a new complex in the West Villages district just south of West Villages Parkway and U.S. 41, near the State College of Florida campus in North Port.
It’ll be a $75-$80 million complex on 70 acres. The story says it’s envisioned to anchor a “town center” commercial and residential district. If anyone has ever been to a spring training facility, however, one knows how ridiculous such an idea is. There is nothing more geographically un-centered and dispersed than a spring training facility. It’s a sea of open fields which private citizens generally cannot access and large parking lots. These facilities typically require major arteries, not quaint town streets, for reasonable access. The best any facilities do to integrate with surrounding communities can be seen in Fort Myers with the Twins and in Surprise, Arizona with the Rangers and Royals, where the facilities are part of larger community parks and recreation centers. That’s OK, and certainly better than nothing, but they’re not the anchors of the vibrant live/work/shop developments like the Braves and Sarasota are describing here.
But of course everyone involved has to say that, because selling such facilities as the engine of pie-in-the-sky development is a key part of making the large expenditure of public funds seem more palatable. And yes, there will be a big expenditure of public funds here: the Braves will be getting $56 million in taxpayer subsidies for the new place, some from the state, some from the county. The amount from the county, by the way, is calculated to fall just below the threshold required for a public vote on the expenditure. The Braves have always been blessed with the ability to avoid public votes for their corporate welfare, of course.
One wonders how many other wealthy private businesses owned by multinational corporations get tens of millions in tax dollars to build employee training centers. Not many, I’m sure. The Braves always seem to luck out in this regard, however.