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.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner and author of two no-hitters, considered quitting baseball a few years ago when he was bounced up and down between the major leagues and the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia.
At the time, Arrieta was having trouble living up to his potential as one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects. He started on Opening Day in 2012, but finished the season with a 6.20 ERA and was very quickly moved back to Norfolk after four mediocre starts to begin the 2013 season.
As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Arrieta was considering quitting baseball so that his family could have a regular life.
We were at a point where I had other things that I could segue into and establish a career elsewhere. Not that I wanted that to happen, but I didn’t want to continue to go through the things we were going through and moving from place to place in the minor leagues at 25, 26 years old.
Baseball is something that I’ve loved to do since I was a little kid, but it’s not everything. I had to reevaluate some things. I knew I could always pitch this way, but there were times where it seemed like maybe I wasn’t going to get to that point.
It’s just part of life that we had to deal with.
Mooney also points out that Arrieta had a business background having gone to Texas Christian University and would have done something in that field if he had hung up the spikes.
This has been brought up because Arrieta’s teammate Tommy La Stella considered quitting baseball as well recently, as the Cubs demoted him to Triple-A. Though La Stella received a lot of criticism, Arrieta can relate to La Stella. The right-hander said, “I know that there were things that he was going through and dealing with (that) we may not agree with and understand.”
There’s an interesting article over that the New York Times in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick stuff. This one is about the history of the National Anthem at sporting events.
The anthem is a fixture for as long as those of us reading this blog have been attending games and it’d be weird if it wasn’t there. But it hasn’t always been there, the Times notes. Indeed, it was not a regular fixture until 1942 when it was added for the obvious reason that we were at war. The other major sports leagues all adopted the anthem soon after. The NBA at the inception of the league in 1946 and the NHL in the same year. The NFL’s spokesman doesn’t mention a year, but notes that it’s a non-negotiable part of the game experience. The non-negotiability of it is underscored by the comment from the MLS spokesman who notes that they felt that they had no choice but to play the anthem when that league began play in the 1990s.
I like the anthem at ballgames. It just seems like part of the experience. I like it for its own sake, at least if the performance isn’t too over the top, and I like it because it serves as a nice demarcation between all of the pregame b.s. and the actual game starting.
But this article reminds us that there is no immutable structural reason for the anthem at games. Other countries don’t play their own anthems at their sporting events. We don’t play it before movies or plays or other non-sports performances. It’s a thing that we do which, however much of a tradition it has become, is somewhat odd when you think about it for a moment. And which has to seem pretty rote to the actual ballplayers who hear it maybe 180 times a year.