Nobody's stealing now certainly not the Yankees New York could finish last in AL in stolen bases

September 14, 1993|By The Sporting News

This will not be remembered as the year of the stolen base -- especially for the New York Yankees, who will finish with the fewest in the majors for the second time in club history. Excluding expansion teams for the moment, the projected major-league total entering this week is 3,082 stolen bases. That would be the lowest since 1984.

In the National League, there were 1,397 steals in 1,797 games. That's a projected total of 1,763, or 1,510 without Colorado and Florida. That decline would continue a four-year slide, which can be traced to such factors as the gradual base-running deterioration in St. Louis, to Vince Coleman's gradual disappearance, and, this season, to bigger power numbers that make managers less apt to take a bat out of someone's hands.

In the American League, there were 1,246 steals in 1,792 games. That projects to a total of 1,571, which would be fourth-highest in the past decade. It would be a big drop from last season's total of 1,704. Trace it largely to Milwaukee, which had 256 steals in 1992 but is on pace for at least 100 fewer. Rickey Henderson's age (34) is another reason for the overall decline in the majors.

Base-stealing goes in cycles, and the fact that there are no glamour numbers among the league leaders prompts such theories as better slide steps by pitchers and more quick-throwing catchers. If Otis Nixon played every day and hit better this season, that alone would offset much of the decrease.

The most significant decline is that of the Yankees' base-stealing numbers. They have stolen 32 bases (roughly half of the next-closest total) and been caught 31 times. The only other season they finished last in the majors was 1929, when they finished second in the standings to Philadelphia. They did finish last in the AL one other season -- 1961, when they had enough homers to compensate.

The 1993 Yankees, who lead the AL with 152 homers, are a throwback to those ancestors who lived by the long ball rather than the quick step.

The East pennant race offers a stark contrast. Toronto has four players (Roberto Alomar, Henderson, Devon White and Paul Molitor) with at least 18 stolen bases.

Yankees manager Buck Showalter would prefer to use a running game to subsidize the club's power, but his personnel can't comply. The Yankees are sl-o-o-o-o-w. Their leader is Pat Kelly with 11 steals, and he has been caught 10 times. Bernie Williams is 6-for-14.

Kelly and Williams are the only Yankees with above-average speed. Williams' instincts on the bases are not good. It was his inability to steal that convinced the Yankees to move Williams

from leadoff to sixth in the order.

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