Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Jacoby Ellsbury: Hail to the Thief

Before the Red Sox leave Texas on Sunday, Jacoby Ellsbury may have staked his claim in the club's record book. Tommy Harper’s single-season steals record seems poised to fall.

Ellsbury stole his 53rd base on Saturday night, overtaking Tris Speaker for second best by a Red Sox. Ellsbury is now just one steal away from Harper’s team record set back in 1973.

The Red Sox haven't had many speedsters in the intervening 36 years, and Ellsbury has opened a new dimension in the team's game.

Ellsbury is the first Red Sox player with multiple 50-steal seasons, and just the third player in team history to reach the half-century mark.

Here's a look at the Red Sox single-season leaders:

Rank Player Year SB

1. Tommy Harper 1973 54
2. Jacoby Ellsbury 2009 53
3. Tris Speaker 1912 52
4. Jacoby Ellsbury 2008 50
5. Tris Speaker 1913 46
6. Tris Speaker 1914 42
6. Otis Nixon 1994 42 (strike season)
7. Harry Hooper 1910 40
7. Billy Werber 1934 40

As you can see, the Sox earned their reputation as a team that didn't steal many bases, going 20, 39, and 21 years without a 40-steal season from any player. Before Ellsbury accomplished the feat last season, it had been 14 years since the last player, Otis Nixon, had stolen as many as 40 bases.

It's worth noting that Nixon stole 42 bases in just 103 games that season, due to the 1994 player's strike. Who knows how many he would have snatched in a full campaign?

Ellsbury started the season strongly, seemingly on a mission to break Harper's 36-year-old mark. Being that it's only only mid-August, there's no telling what Ellsbury's new record will be come season's end, but 60 steals doesn't seem unlikely.

That was once unimaginable for a Red Sox player.

In less than three full seasons, Ellsbury has already moved into seventh place on the team's all-time stolen base list. That should tell you plenty about the Red Sox and their tendency to steal bases, or lack thereof.

Harry Hooper holds the club record with an even 300 steals, achieved in 1647 games over 12 seasons. With 111 thefts in just 286 games, Ellsbury should be halfway there by next season.

If he stays healthy, Ellsbury could surpass Hooper in about four years, which would be a rather remarkable accomplishment—especially for a Red Sox player.

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