Miami Marlins budding superstar Jazz Chisholm Jr. is without question the face of the franchise down in South Florida, and this season his star-power is set to soar even higher.
Already the poster boy for this year’s MLB The Show 2023, the official video game of Major League Baseball, there was another announcement this offseason that could add even more cache to his name. Fresh off his first All-Star campaign as a second baseman, the Marlins announced that he will switch positions and man centerfield for Miami this season.
In his first game at the position, Jazz took the collar (0-for-4, 2 Ks) in a 5-3 Miami Marlins loss to the New York Mets on Opening Day. However, better days are surely ahead for the Marlins star with 161 games to go.
Naturally, people immediately questioned the idea of moving someone who has played infield their entire lives to the outfield, but the idea to make the switch was actually made by Jazz himself.
“I mean it was really my decision,” said Chisholm during a media session in Miami. “So it wasn’t really a like time to be like, ‘oh I’m probably gonna go train because they’re gonna put me in the outfield.’ It was more like, ‘Ok imma go in the outfield because I want to win.”
This quote reminded me of what Jazz said when he spoke to me for MLBBro.com at the beginning of last season in regard to a different position change. As we all know, Chisholm came up as a shortstop and that was his preferred position, but the ‘Bahamian Blur ‘ was willing to switch positions in order to win.
“I just started playing second base when I got to the big leagues. I do have a preference of shortstop, but learning a new position ain’t bad.”
Jazz’s words turned out to be prophetic, as he adapts to another position in the pros in order to help the Marlins bring winning baseball back to Little Havana. He has already made it known that he plans to bring the same mentality that helped him turn heads at second to his new position, even predicting a Gold Glove.
“Like I remember last year when I went out there and I did my early work every day before games, I would always learn every field that I’ve been on. I feel like that helped me a lot defensively, so I just plan on doing that everyday again. Just going out there taking a couple steps on the warning track before the game, figure it out a little bit and then go and play.”
Moving from second base to centerfield alters the pantheon of MLBbros that Chisholm will enter, as some of the greatest Black players of all-time have manned the position. Names like Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Torii Hunter and Kenny Lofton; these are some legendary leather flashers he can look to for inspiration.
Hall of Famer Tim Raines Made The Switch
Now, the players we mentioned before had played the position their entire lives, but there is another OG MLBbro who not only made the switch from second base to outfield, but he also played the position well enough to make it all the way to Cooperstown. Montreal Expos great Tim Raines came up as a second baseman in their farm system before becoming an outfielder full time in 1985. Raines went on to become a seven-time All Star, Silver Slugger and two-time World Series Champion.
Chisholm still has work to do in order to accomplish the things that these greats have done, and the first step to that will be staying healthy the majority of the season. That was the one knock on his last season, as injuries allowed him to compete in only 60 games last season.
It’s so funny when I play 155 games this year the bandwagon gonna be so real and I don’t wanna hear it!! Your tweets have been bookmarked! #keepdoubting
The art of stealing bases is a skill that’s synonymous with the Black Athlete. The Top 15 greatest bag swipers in MLB history (After Jackie Robinson integrated the game) are all African-American, with the exceptions of Cuban speedster Bert Campaneris and Brett Butler, who is an aberration — like the Larry Bird of base stealing.
Once they started letting brothers in the game, it became a skill that is dominated yearly by the African-American or Afro-Latino athlete. (There are six MLBbros in the Top 20 in stolen bases so far this season.)
The Best To Ever Do It
1. Rickey Henderson
Simply the greatest base-stealing technician that ever lived with 1,406 steals on his resume. Henderson is the only player to ever eclipse 1,000 swipes for a career. Marinate on that for a sec.
Pretty Rickey swiped 66 bases at the age of 40 and stole 31 at the age of 44, never deviating from his classic head-first slide.
He led the American League in stolen bases from 1980-1991. His combination of speed, power and bat savvy makes him hands down the greatest leadoff hitter to ever put on spikes, but also one of the deadliest multi-faceted weapons MLB has ever seen. A dynamic five-tool package with golden legs, unapologetic swag and soul.
2. Lou Brock
“Lightening” Lou Brock was the blueprint for the emergence of Rickey Henderson. In the ’60s and ’70s, the eight-time NL stolen base king played with the St. Louis Cardinals. With Brock on the move, pitchers saw nothing but streaks of red flying by them. He had 938 swipes in his career.
Brock was the standard-bearer for stolen base supremacy before Henderson obliterated his record, but due to the way the game has changed, Brock’s second-place position on the all-time list is pretty safe.
It takes a rare athlete, executing a combination of supreme athleticism and profound intellect to steal 50 bases for 12 straight seasons as Brock did from 1965-76. A Tribe Called Quest gives Brock a shout on their classic hip-hop joint Check the Rhyme.
3. Tim Raines
Nobody in the ’80s rocked a Jheri Curl better than Rock Raines, who also knew how to handle a bat as evidenced by his 2,605 hits and .294 career batting average.
As a leadoff missile, his stolen base prowess made him a lethal weapon. Raines swiped over 70 bases each season from 1981-86 and he led the NL in steals from 81-84, until Vince Coleman hit the scene.
ROCK RAINES WAS READY ALL THE TIME
Raines, a 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, was not only multi-faceted and down to pound the pavement for a bag, but he was the most precise base stealer among the sultans of swipe, finishing his big league career with the best-stolen base percentage (84.7) of any player with 400-plus steals.
4. Maury Wills
Wills is one of the most underrated players in history and egregiously still hasn’t been voted into the Hall of Fame. He won six consecutive National League stolen base crowns (1960-65). His 50 steals in 1960 marked the first time an NL player had eclipsed the half-century mark in swipes since Max Carey in 1923.
Wills is known as the principal offensive weapon of the Dodgers three championship squads between 1959 and 1965. Wills gained fame and respect as a stolen base king by swiping 104 bases in 1962, eclipsing a 47-year-old MLB record.
MAURY WILLS REFLECTS ON HOW THE SPIRIT OF JACKIE ROBINSON HELPED HIM ENDURE RACISM WHILE HE WAS A PLAYER
5. Vince Coleman
Coleman stormed the MLB scene winning NL Rookie of the Year in 1985, swiping 110 bases.
He swiped over 100 again for the next two seasons before tailing off with seasons of 81, 65 and 77 steals for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Coleman never stole more than 50 again after leaving St. Louis and he once said he didn’t know who Jackie Robinson was, but his bag-swiping omnipotence didn’t allow me to exclude him for his ignorance.
VINCE COLEMAN JOINS EXCLUSIVE 100-STEAL CLUB
Honorable Mention: Jackie Robinson (King of Stealing Home), Joe Morgan (HOF, 608 career steals), Luis Aparicio (HOF, nine-straight AL stolen base titles)
There was a time when the Washington Nationals were known as the Montreal Expos.
The MLB franchise in the Great White North was the organization that was home to arguably the greatest collection of outfield talent that one college has ever produced.
Ryan Zimmerman broke the all-time runs scored mark that had been previously held by 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tim Raines. Rock is an HBCU legend, whose talent was cultivated at Florida A&M University
FAMU, a historically Black College in Tallahassee, FL, boasts a legacy that includes four of the greatest outfielders the game has ever known.
The Rattlers baseball program is dwarfed by the shadow of a football program that has produced NFL legends from Bob Hayes in the early 1960s to Nate Newton in the 1980s.
With two alumni that have already gotten their call to Cooperstown and two other multiple-time all-stars who make compelling arguments for those Cooperstown plaques, FAMU stands with the elite programs in college baseball history.
Until last weekend, 2017 Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Raines held the Expos/Nationals franchise mark for runs scored but that’s just part of his legacy. Raines is on the shortlist of the greatest leadoff men in history. In achieving such acclaim, he also helped put Canadian baseball on the MLB map before the game exploded nationwide.
HBCU baseball has been devalued by MLB scouts, but the quartet of FAMU all-star outfielders is second to none. In addition to Raines, the Rattlers baseball program produced former NL MVP and 2010 Hall of Famer Andre “Hawk” Dawson.
There’s an argument to be made that Marquis Grissom, who was a five-tool all-star in his own right, is a glaring omission from the house of legends. By the way, Vince Coleman, another prolific all-time great base stealer probably couldn’t get off the bench to start for this team.
It would be hard to find another college program that can boast a legacy of outfield talent to compare with this quartet of greatness. And when it comes to Black outfield excellence, FAMU still got it locked.