Earlier this week the New York Yankees signed Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year contract worth $153 million. Several media outlets and baseball pundits questioned whether or not it was a good move on the part of the Yankees. Many questioned either the length or value of the contract, while others opined that Ellsbury was just not the type of player that deserved that type of free-agent contract.
In defense of Ellsbury, he played a major role in the Red Sox winning the championship last year. He led the majors with 52 stolen bases and batted .298 while playing a solid center field. He has stolen 50 or more base in three of his seven seasons. But his speed on the basepaths was a bone of contention for some people who see Ellsbury as too one-dimensional of a player.
Maybe, however, the Yankees decision was a simple response to a need that has plagued the team for almost 25 years.
As mentioned above, Ellsbury led the majors last season with 52 stolen bases. He was the only player to steal 50 or more last season. Do you know the last Yankees player to steal 50 or more bases in a season? It happened in 1988. Rickey Henderson stole 93 in that season, the last time the Yanks had a player reach the 50-steal mark in a season.
Here’s a look at the last time each of the major league teams had a player who stole 50 or more bases in a season.
American League teams
1988: New York Yankees (Rickey Henderson, 93)
1995: Texas (Otis Nixon, 50)
1996: Kansas City (Tom Goodwin, 66)
1997: Minnesota (Chuck Knoblauch, 62)
1998: Cleveland (Kenny Lofton, 54)
1998: Toronto (Shannon Stewart, 51)
2001: Detroit (Roger Cedeno, 55)
2001: Seattle (Ichiro Suzuki, 56)
2006: L.A. Angels (Chone Figgins, 52)
2007: Baltimore (Brian Roberts, 50)
2009: Tampa Bay (Carl Crawford, 60)
2010: Chicago White Sox (Juan Pierre, 68)
2010: Houston (Michael Bourne, 52)
2010: Oakland (Rajai Davis, 50)
2013: Boston (Jacoby Ellsbury, 52)
National League teams
1985: Philadelphia (Juan Samuel, 53)
1987: San Diego (Tony Gwynn, 56)
1990: San Francisco (Brett Butler, 51)
1991: Atlanta (Otis Nixon, 72)
1993: Washington (Marquis Grissom, 53)
1997: Cincinnati (Deion Sanders, 56)
1997: St. Louis (Delino DeShields, 55)
1998: Pittsburgh (Tony Womack, 58)
2004: Milwaukee (Scott Podsednik, 70)
2006: Chicago Cubs (Juan Pierre, 58)
2007: Arizona (Eric Byrnes, 50)
2007: Los Angeles Dodgers (Juan Pierre, 64)
2007: Miami (Hanley Ramirez, 51)
2008: Colorado (Willy Taveras, 68)
2008: New York Mets (Jose Reyes, 56)
* Note: Did you notice that one player, Juan Pierre, is the last player to steal 50 or more bases for three different teams (Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and L.A. Dodgers), and Otis Nixon is the last player to steal 50-plus bases for two teams (Texas and Atlanta).
Will a full season of Ellsbury stealing bases lead the Yankees to a World Championship? We’ll have a few months to see how well this free agent signing plays out. No doubt the Bronx Bombers are hoping Ellsbury’s stolen base skill will be a catalyst in that journey back to the World Series.
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