Friday, October 18, 2013

Speed Kills...

                              In 1976, David Bowie released "Station to Station", the follow up to Young Americans.  It was an ambitious work, featuring only six songs, two of which- Golden Years and TVC15- received enormous amount of airplay.  Bowie got the title from a long gone form of telephone communication, in which the caller- with or without assistance from the operator-tries to reach his or her intended listener, and said listener can choose to accept the call...(this explanation almost seems as long as Bowie's title track to the album...a ten minute song which was the only song not released on a single from it...)

            In baseball, the term "Station to Station" refers to a team that never steals, relying mostly on power to produce runs.  A good example of this kind of play would be the 2013 Detroit Tigers, who stole only 35 bases during the season.  Their opponents in the 2013 ALCS, the Boston Red Sox were just the opposite...historically so.  Boston stole 123 bases in 142 attempts, a 86.9% success rate...second highest percentage in the live ball area. Jacoby Ellsbury stole 52 out of 56, good for 92.9%; the best single season mark since 1922.  Sure, 123 for a team isn't super impressive-any number of '70s A's or '80s Cardinal teams have doubled and almost tripled that total- but the selectiveness is very impressive; even Big Papi was 4 for 4 this year...

       What's most amazing to me is that this is a very recent development to say the least.  The Red Sox teams I grew up with in the aforementioned '70s and '80s were as slow footed as they came, and would often have even their best players lead the league in double plays (Jim Rice comes to mind).  Oh sure, they had Tommy Harper in the early part of the former decade, but he was before my time.  In fact, it wasn't until they got Jerry Remy from the Angels, that the Sox had an actual base stealer, and he never surpassed his total of 30 after his inaugural '78 season.

              Over the next two decades, Boston would have a few speedsters on the team...a Willie McGee here, and Otis Nixon there, but no one who was in their prime, really. (I guess you can count Ellis Burks, but he became more of a power hitter eventually) Then in 2002, they got Johnny Damon, an actual legitimate lead off hitter.  No longer would the Sox have lead foots like Wade Boggs and Dwight Evans lead off.  Of course, after a while, Damon did what a lot of fast players did for the Sox; he stole less and less each year,,,

           In 2006, Boston acquired Coco Crisp from the Indians, but he was hampered by injuries during his time in Boston.  Ironically, he's now having his best seasons in Oakland, a team that plays "Moneyball", which somewhat devalues the stolen base. (A far cry from the '70s A's and the Rickey Henderson-led teams of the early '80s)  Coco eventually lost his roster spot to Ellsbury, which leads us to today.  Paired with Shane Victorino in the #2 hole, Jacoby has changed to way Boston scores runs...sure, there's Papi, Napoli and such, and the players take a lot of pitchers...(which is very "Moneyball', actually) But you can't argue with matter how hard I've tried to...btw, does anyone know what the fu#@%^"TVC15" means...? 

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