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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Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a biweekly blog published every Wednesday and Sunday with a bonus “SIX STATS…” posting every Friday.
With a pair of home runs on September 16, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun became the latest member of the 30-30 club (30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in one season). The Dodgers Matt Kemp became a 30-30 club member earlier in the season and currently sits with 34 home runs and 40 steals for the season. Three other players have an outside chance at joining the club this year, but have a lot of work to do in the final week: Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury with 28 HRs and 37 steals; Texas’ Ian Kinsler with 29 homers and 25 steals; and the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson with 41 four-baggers and 24 swipes.
Braun’s membership this year in to the 30-30 Club comes after the Brewers had gone over 40 years since Tommy Harper’s 30-30 year in 1970 (he had 31 home runs and 38 stolen bases that year). Following are the last seasons a team had a player in the 30-30 Club:
Never had a 30-30 Club player: Arizona, Boston, Chicago White Sox, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota, San Diego, St. Louis, Tampa Bay.
1970: Milwaukee (prior to Braun’s this year)
1977: LA Angels
1995: Chicago Cubs
1997: Colorado, San Francisco
1999: Houston, LA Dodgers (prior to Kemp’s this year)
2003: NY Yankees
2007: Cincinnati, NY Mets, Philadelphia
2008: Cleveland, Florida
(Note: Two players, Carlos Beltran in 2004 and Bobby Bonds in 1978, had a 30-30 season but played for two teams that year; Beltran played with the Royals and Houston; Bonds with the White Sox and Rangers.)
WE INTERRUPT HIS BLOG FOR A TRIVIA QUESTION: What player had 30-30 seasons with three different teams? Answer at end of blog.
Did you know? Barry Bonds and his dad, Bobby, top the list for most 30-30 seasons, each with five. Alfonso Soriano has four 30-30 seasons, and Howard Johnson had three. Seven players… Willie Mays, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero, Raul Mondesi, Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa and Ron Gant… had two 30-30 seasons.
Did you know?-Part Two. Only twice in major league history have teammates had 30-30 seasons the same year: Colorado’s Dante Bichette and Ellis Burks (1996) and the Mets’ Howard Johnson and Daryl Strawberry (1987).
Did you know?-Part Three. The last 40-40 player was in 2006 when Soriano had 46 home runs and 41 steals with the Washington Nationals.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Soriano had 30-30 seasons with Washington, Texas and the New York Yankees.