Lost in the clamor surrounding Josh Beckett’s no-hitter against the Phillies was another pair of stolen bases for Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon. Gordon, who also stole three on Friday, leads the league with 30 stolen bases and no one else is close. Billy Hamilton owns the second-highest stolen base total with 18.
Entering the season, Gordon was considered an afterthought in the Dodgers’ plans, but he has become a central part of their offensive attack. He is slashing .293/.340/.382 and the high stolen base total has been accompanied by an extremely high success rate of 91 percent.
Gordon could also be on his way to doing something that hasn’t been done in 26 years. He is presently on pace to steal 95 bases over 162 games. Should he steal that many, he would be the first player to steal 90-plus bags since Rickey Henderson stole 93 in 1988. Vince Coleman stole 109 bases the year prior.
Due to a confluence of factors — including smaller ballparks and a focus on power — stolen bases have been on the decline. In 1987, teams averaged 0.95 stolen bases per game according to Baseball Reference. It dipped as low as 0.50 in 2003. 2013 saw a 0.52 average and the current MLB average is 0.59. Only three times since the turn of the millennium has the stolen base leader swiped 70-plus bags and none more than 78. Gordon and Hamilton are what remains of a once-glorious breed of speedsters who made the lives of pitchers a personal hell.
1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.
Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:
“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’
Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.
I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.
The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.
Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.
Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:
It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”
At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.
I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .