24 Mar

honor among thieves

The major league single-season stolen base record has stood at 130 since 1982. No one has gotten within 20 bags of that mark in the 35 years since. Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High star, could get there. Who says? No less an authority than the player who holds the record: Rickey Henderson. In a recent interview with csnbayarea.com, the Hall of Famer had a lot of good things to say about Hamilton and his base-stealing philosophy, which Henderson said reminded him of his own: “I’m gonna run until you throw me out. And if you throw me out, I’m gonna get back up and run again.” Over his 25 years, Henderson’s steal success rate was 81 percent. Over his three-plus years, Hamilton is at 82 percent. They are master thieves. Of course, the big thing for Hamilton, as Henderson acknowledged, is getting on base enough to make it all work. Henderson had an on-base percentage of .398 in 1982, when he got his 130. Hamilton stole 58 bags for Cincinnati last season in just 119 games. His OBP was a rather pedestrian .321, his batting average, even after a strong second half, a lackluster .260. There are some who think Hamilton just isn’t going to hit enough to remain a regular, his defensive skill as a center fielder notwithstanding. After an injury-curtailed 2016 season, Hamilton hasn’t had an inspiring spring. He returned to the Reds’ lineup Thursday from several days off (sore Achilles’) and took an 0-for-3 as the DH. He is batting .211 (.268 OBP, 12 strikeouts in 38 at-bats) in 14 games. When the games start to count, he’ll need to step it up. Yes, a lot. While it’s true that the stolen base has been marginalized by a variety of factors in recent years, Hamilton — who swiped 155 bags in the minors in 2012 — has shown that it can still be a weapon. When he’s on base, you’re compelled to watch. Imagine what a thrill it would be to watch him make a run at Henderson’s record.