Disclaimer: If you read my prior piece, "The Stolen Base. A Lost Art. Will We Ever See a 100 Steal Man Again?" then you know how I've been clamoring for someone to take the reins that predecessors Rickey Henderson, Rock Raines, and Vince Coleman left as the next 100-steal man.
I thought it might be Jose Reyes; I thought it might be fellow rookie Florida Marlins' third baseman Emilio Bonifacio, before he seemingly forgot how to steal bases after three Opening Day thefts. Now could it be Dexter Fowler?
On the first day of each month, I am going to be keeping tabs on the ML stolen base leaders on their quest to steal 100 and will post updates so progress can be tracked and monitored. Check back with my archive for updates.
I'd never heard of him before last night's magical performance.
This brings a whole new meaning to one-night stand.
2006: Age 20, Low A ball, 43 steals
2007: Age 21, A ball Modesto, 20 steals
2008: Age 22, AA ball Tulsa, 20 steals
2009: Rookie, Colorado Rockies, nine steals through 16 games played; on pace for 91 steals.
Enter Chris Young, Padres pitcher, to whom this greatness can be attributed. His known slow delivery to the plate enabled Fowler to get big leads with big results all night on the base paths.
Lost in Fowler's impressive statistical night was the fact that in order to steal all those bases, which he did through the first four innings, he first had to get on base, which he did equally masterfully, especially for such a young kid.
Next, once he got on base in a variety of ways (two singles and a walk), it's not like he was simply running wild or undisciplined. His second steal of the night was part of an orchestrated successful double steal courtesy of Ryan Spilborghs. On top of that, he was never caught so much as a single time—five for five on the night.
Finally, to cap off Fowler's amazing success and the epitome of why we get on base in the first place, all three times he reached base, he scored runs for his team, who won as a result.
In one night, the inconspicuous Fowler more than doubled his season total of four stolen bases. In order to reach the 100 stolen base mark, I have chosen to highlight, one would have to successfully steal about 16 bases each month. (While the math comes out to 96, the remaining four bags could be swiped in the few games played in October, in the Rockies' case, four games, more than enough opportunities to accomplish the feat.)
I do not think asking 16 bases to be stolen each month is too much to ask. After all, Fowler is already 9-for-10 and still learning how to play at the Major League level. When he develops his timing and technique, he should be really fun to watch.
Too bad the Rockies play in an undesired time zone in a small market and play in few nationally televised games. This is where Fowler and his teammates can help their cause. The more they win and the more he runs, the more SportsCenter coverage, like the video which opened a quarterly segment this morning, they will get.
Consider also that to steal 100 bases successfully, you can still get caught roughly 20 times and still be considered a threat without being a liability on the base paths, as coaches generally like to see an 80 percent success rate.
Given Fowler's current pace, he'd be 54-for-60 (9-for-10 X six-month season). We all know he isn't going to continue at this clip. Some nights he'll steal three to four bags, and hopefully other times last night's success will be duplicated, if not exceeded. Yes, some nights he'll steal just one, and I suppose it's possible some nights he won't steal any bases, probably due to not getting on base in the first place.
We haven't seen this kind of spectacle since last year (really?) when NL stolen base champ Willy Tavares did it, ironically, for the Rockies against the White Sox in interleague play on June 14. Prior to that, Damian Jackson (remember him? I do—vaguely) did it in 1999, which was exceeded by Otis Nixon's six in 1991 for the Braves.
If you believe Fowler, he was ready to go again if the situation called for it, according to Thomas Harding's MLB.com report:
"Only a clogged base path prevented Fowler from attempting to match the club mark after a walk from Padres reliever Edwin Moreno in the fifth. Pitcher Glendon Rusch had singled in front of Fowler. A double steal was not in the plan, even though Fowler prepared for the off-chance that the veteran Rusch would pull a surprise.
"I was like, 'Rushie, if you take off, that's on you...but I'm right behind you,'" Fowler said."
Amazing. Makes you wonder how many more he could have and would have attempted if only given the chance. Hopefully he'll get the same Billy Martin-like endorsement, nicknamed "Billy Ball," to run that the former A's manager gave to Rickey Henderson starting in the 1980 season, which began his quest as baseball's all-time steals king.
Can't wait for the next Padres-Rockies series, which is actually next week, but given it's only a two-gamer and a Young start would likely have already occurred, the next best chance to see Fowler on display is later that month, May 29-31, when the Padres come to Coors Field.
Not to blame it all on Young, but other Andy Pettitte-esque pitchers with slow deliveries and other similar southpaws should probably (but hopefully won't) take notes.
While the Rockies sadly don't play the Yankees in interleague this year, if Tavares' aforementioned success last year is any indication, maybe those teams the Rockies do play will have extra meaning and added excitement and give isolated fans like myself extra incentive to check the box score after each game.
Somewhere, Henderson is smiling.
I know I, as a baseball purist and the newest Dexter "The Prowler" Fowler fan, will be watching—all season long. Again, I'd rather see four steals in a game than four homers any day.
Thank you Dexter!
Please don't be a one-game wonder. Baseball needs another 100-steal man.
MLB.com and Thomas Harding's article, "Fowler swipes five bags. Center fielder ties rookie record for steals in game" contributed to this article.