Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball

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Reds minor leaguer Billy Hamilton is, by nearly all credible accounts, the fastest player in professional baseball.

And the 21-year-old shortstop is a pretty good prospect too, ranking among Baseball America‘s top 50 both last season and this season.

Last year Hamilton stole 103 bases in 135 games at low Single-A and was caught just 20 times, which is an incredible amount of running … until you look at what he’s done so far this year.

Hamilton has played 23 games at high Single-A and he’s stolen 29 bases. Seriously, he has 29 steals in 23 games. Oh, and he’s also hitting .398 with a 1.072 OPS. Hamilton is on pace to swipe 182 bases at an 83 percent clip, which is beyond absurd. And for his pro career he now has 194 steals in 270 games.

Also fun: There’s a Hall of Famer named Billy Hamilton who played in the late-1800s and was one of the fastest players in baseball. His nickname was “Sliding Billy” and he led the league in steals five times with 111, 102, 111, 100, and 97 bags, finishing with a total of 914 to rank third all time behind only Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock.

When the modern Billy Hamilton makes the majors in a year or two I’m going to be extremely disappointed in everyone if the “Sliding Billy” nickname doesn’t stick.

UPDATE: Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus has a bunch more crazy Billy Hamilton facts.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?