One of the more surprising things last season was just how poorly Matt Kemp performed on the base paths. He was caught stealing 15 times on 34 attempts last season, and that’s just not getting the job done. With that success rate he’s better off not going at all.
But go he will this year, and unlike last year, he’ll have the help of Davey Lopes, who is now the Dodgers’ base running coach. The same Lopes who, as the Phillies first base coach, had that team stealing bases with a great deal of success. Of the regular starters in Philly last year, only Raul Ibanez had a bad stolen base success rate, and that was on a mere 7 attempts. No one ran a ton there, but when they ran, they ran very efficiently.
That’s what Lopes stresses in an article by Bill Shaikin in the Los Angeles Times:
“Some guys think that, because of their speed and ability, they can steal at any time, in any situation, against any given pitcher,” Lopes said. “That’s when you get hurt. “In a sequence of seven or eight pitches, a pitcher may give you one pitch to steal. He may slow down his motion one time. If you’re not ready, you’re going to miss your opportunity.
While watching Kemp steal against the Angels a week ago Saturday, another guy in the press box asked aloud why on Earth the Phillies would let Davey Lopes go. The consensus was that the Phillies, as a rule, don’t pay a lot for coaches, Lopes wanted too much money, so off he went.
I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I suspect we’ll see this year just how valuable Davey Lopes is.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”