Saturday, May 17, 2014

Awesome night card, pt. 215

This is one of the coolest cards in the 1978 Topps set. Certainly the coolest Seattle Mariners card in the 1978 Topps set. It exudes cool, possibly in a way only a kid from the '70s or '80s can understand.

You see, once upon a time, the stolen base was for the hipster kids. While more young fans gravitated toward home runs, considerably few marveled at the artistry of base stealing. I was one of those few. For me, there was no one more ice cool in the '70s and '80s than Davey Lopes, Ron LeFlore, Cesar Cedeno, Lou Brock, Frank Taveras, Willie Wilson, Rickey Henderson, Omar Moreno, Tim Raines and Julio Cruz.

But base stealers didn't operate in obscurity then. They stole so many bases that you had to notice them --even if you liked home runs better. Even Don Baylor -- DON BAYLOR -- stole 52 bases one year.

That's a list of my heroes right there.

Mike Schmidt? Dave Kingman? Reggie Jackson?

Sure, I liked a good home run, too. But I spent most of my time watching Davey Lopes take his lead off of first base.

It's not like that today.

Now, the stolen base is almost ignored, by teams, by fans, by statisticians. It's viewed, at best, as superfluous and, at worst, as counterproductive. With the exception of Mike Trout (because he can do other things), stolen base leaders are afterthoughts. In the last few years, Everth Cabrera, Michael Bourn, Eric Young and Willy Taveras have won stolen base crowns. None are household names. and I don't think there is anyone in baseball who would consider them imperative to a team's success.

I am hoping one man can change this.

The Dodgers' Dee Gordon leads the majors in stolen bases. He has 25. And there's nothing that appears to be stopping him from exceeding 80 for the year.

No one has stolen at least 80 bases since the 1980s.

What's better is he's reaching base at a respectable rate, batting .315 with an on-base average of .353. His OPS is .772 -- not fantastic, but not detrimental by any standard. He is actually helping the team offensively because nobody else outside of Puig and Gonzalez knows what a bat is.

This is all a total surprise because a year ago, Gordon looked like he was 14 at the plate and about 4 in the field.

But I need that kind of hero again. I need a base-stealing hero who can pile up steals and be viewed as an offensive catalyst the way those guys were in the '70s.

And when people are fawning over Jose Abreu or Nelson Cruz or Giancarlo Stanton, I'll be over to the side, admiring what is hopefully a future card of Dee Gordon in a pose very similar to Julio Cruz on his 1978 Topps card.

I need the stolen base to be cool again.


Night Card binder candidate: Julio Cruz, 1978 Topps, #687
Does it make the binder?: Saaaaaaafe! Yes it does.


  1. Maybe as the steroid era comes to a close the stolen base will re-emerge as a valued part of the game.

  2. Everything comes and goes. Stolen bases disappeared in the 40's and 50's as teams waited for the homerun (sound familiar?). But then Aparicio and Wills started stealing bases and they were back in the 60's.

  3. I remember in the early 1990's when Kenny Lofton and Marquis Grissom were stealing more than 70 bases a bunch of times. Then in the mid 1990's, they just stopped. They were still stealing more than 30, but the 70 was gone. One reason I liked Jacoby Ellsbury so much was that he was the very rare Red Sox player who could run. We don't get many base stealers on the Red Sox.

  4. Let's be honest -- everyone should recognize that the years from 1977 through 1985 were the best baseball in history -- high enough homer totals, high stolen base totals, "closers" who were true firemen and worked two or three innings often, games that did not feature 7 pitching changes -- it was a good time to be a fan.

    While we may never go back to that kind of bullpen usage, I think we could come back around to that time -- as Jeff mentioned. I hope so.

  5. Let's be honest--1969 was the only year that ever mattered in baseball. ;-)

    That said, I have been trying to talk the Mets into trading for Dee Gordon ever since he flopped in his first go around. It looked to be a lock of a sweet deal for the Mets when Hanley Ramirez took over short. But does Sandy Alderson listen to me? Nooooo. What's even more tragic is that other Mets fans--the same ones clamoring for Stephen (yuck) Drew--would poo poo the idea, saying that Dee Gordon was never going to amount to anything. Most current Mets fans are idiots (not me, of course...but them...and you know who them are).

  6. "For me, there was no one more ice cool in the '70s and '80s than Davey Lopes, Ron LeFlore, Cesar Cedeno, Lou Brock, Frank Taveras, Willie Wilson, Rickey Henderson, Omar Moreno, Tim Raines and Julio Cruz."............gotta love how you stayed true to the Dodgers and blatantly omitted Joe Morgan who was one of the great base stealers of the 1970's from your list.

  7. As a hipster today, I fully agree that SB threats are awesome.

    I also would like to mention of Billy Hamilton in this post? Gordon is great and all, but Billy is gonna be the man!

  8. Hard for me to accept the fact that Tom Gordon has a son playing in the MLB. I'm feeling very old.

    1. His other son is about to be drafted and is a potential first round pick.