With the MLB season winding down and conversations on division winners and wild card participants becoming the dominant conversations through September, sometimes an interesting conversation sparks needed research.
During a Tampa Bay Rays/St. Louis Cardinals game last week, MLBbro legend Vince Coleman was invited to be a part of MLB Tonight “Clubhouse Edition” on MLB Network. Coleman talked about his exploits of swiping bases during his time in the late 1980’s and how a MLBbro icon was a major influence to his success.
Vince Coleman stole 109 bases in 1987, a mark that hasn't been approached since 😳
The famous speedster talks about the art of swiping bags and learning from Rickey Henderson among others.#MLBTonight Clubhouse Edition | @SieraSantos | @PujolsFive | @CC_Sabathia | @CY24_7 pic.twitter.com/x8ehzi2MPZ
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) August 11, 2023
The game of baseball has changed over the past decades. Gone are the days of speedsters swiping bases while driving pitchers crazy like Coleman joked with CC Sabathia about. Gone is the science of studying pitchers for tendencies to take advantage of.
Most importantly the green light to attempt steals is gone by way of waiting for the power hitters to get a chance to impact the game with the long ball.
It’s easy to link Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman because they are all over history with triple digit stolen base totals.
Just look at today’s leaders in stolen bases this season as of August 15th, 2023.
Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves): 55 bases, Esteury Ruiz (Oakland A’s): 46 bases, Corbin Carroll (Arizona Diamondbacks): 36 bases
Corbin Carroll is a rookie, and his 36 stolen bases has him on the inside track to NL Rookie of the Year Award. Seems impressive right? Okay…let’s go back in time to the mid 80’s and look at Vince Coleman.
Afterwards, the perspective of how the game has changed over the last 40 years.
How is Vince Coleman not a Hall of Famer?
As a 10th round pick of the Cardinals, minor league teams were calling 911 from all of the bases our MLBbro legend was stealing.
In 328 minor league games, Coleman stole 289 bases before being called up to St. Louis.
That’s when the story begins…
In 1985, Coleman won the NL Rookie of the Year Award with an absurd 110 steals along with a .267 batting average, one homer 40 RBI and 107 runs scored. Our MLBbro legend became the first rookie to ever steal AT LEAST 100 bases.
Here’s more about the Rookie Repo Man in 1985…
- He had more stolen bases than Rickey Henderson that year…30 more steals.
- Had a 81.5 percent success rate.
- His total represented more than 12 of the 25 teams in baseball at the time.
- Here’s the comparison of our MLBbro to the MLB average that season.
Vince Coleman: 110 — MLB team average: 119.
- Averaged 0.73 per game…for the whole season!
The man did not fall into a sophomore slump either.
Not only did Coleman make history by stealing over 100 bases as a rookie, but he went on to be the first player to steal 100 or more bases in three consecutive seasons which was his first three through 1987.
Vince Coleman played 13 years (1985-1997) finishing with a .260 batting average, 28 home runs, 346 RBI, 849 runs scored with 752 stolen bases. The two-time All-Star led the NL in steals six times.
It’s easy to see why Vince Coleman used Rickey Henderson to study. After all this MLBbro icon is known as…” The Man of Steal”.
Rickey Henderson…the Gold Standard
This MLBbro icon is the stolen base king holding the MLB stolen base record with 1,406. Since passing fellow MLBbro icon Lou Brock (938 steals) in 1991, Henderson sits miles away from the competition.
He’s the only MLB player who has passed the 1,000 stolen base threshold.
Like Vince Coleman, Rickey topped triple digits in stolen bases but look at the longevity.
- Henderson led the league for almost half of his 25 year career, doing it 12 times. The 12th time was at age 39!
- He topped the 40 steal mark (Remember today’s standards!) 17 times…the 50 steal mark 14 times and 75 or more seven times.
- If any player has a chance of topping this man’s record, they can start by trying to steal 30 bases in a season over four different decades. (Henderson had 33 in 1979 at age 20 and 31 in 2000 at age 41).
What sets Rickey Henderson apart from Coleman’s exploits is the combination of speed and power. Rickey Henderson is the only player to reach 100+ steals while hitting double figures in home runs. Plus, the “Man of Steal” was known for those leadoff homers!
Henderson was considered one of MLB’s most complete baseball players. The Hall of Famer was a ten-time All-Star, and the 1990 AL MVP. He led the league in runs scored five times, walks four times and hits once. He hit .300 or better eight times and finished in the 3,000 hit club with 3,055. He’s second all-time in walks behind fellow MLBbro icon, Barry Bonds.
Despite Vince Coleman being a stolen base legend (sixth all time!), he’s the only player on the all-time leader board not in the Hall of Fame.