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.
Billy Hamilton, on base three times for Cincinnati on Sunday, stole a career-high five bases and reached 100 career steals in just his 219th big league game. “He’s an extremely unique talent when it comes to speed,” Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon told mlb.com. Taylorsville native Hamilton leads MLB with 31 steals. He swiped 56 last year, trailing only Dee Gordon’s 64. It’s worth noting that the record for career steals by a Mississippi native is 223, by Gulfport’s Gerald “Gee” Walker, who played in the 1930s and ’40s. Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks is second on the list with 181, followed by Greenville’s Frank White (178), Gulfport’s Matt Lawton (165) and Ellisville’s Buddy Myer (156). The active leader is McComb native Jarrod Dyson, who has 126 bags, six this year for Kansas City. Hamilton, who plays more regularly than Dyson, will catch him soon enough. P.S. The New York Yankees sent Mississippi State product Jacob Lindgren to the minors. The rookie left-hander had a 5.14 ERA in seven innings, allowing three home runs and four walks with eight strikeouts. The 2014 second-round pick had not allowed a homer in 46 2/3 minor league innings while fanning 77 and walking 23.
Silento Sayles is starting to get on base with more regularity. That’s bad news for catchers in the Arizona League. The former Port Gibson High star, who set a national high school stolen base record in 2013, swiped seven bags in seven tries in a recent four-game stretch for the AZL Indians, Cleveland’s rookie club. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Sayles is batting .295 (.413 on-base percentage) with 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts and 16 runs through 17 games. Though he still has a long way to go, the 19-year-old Sayles is certainly an intriguing prospect. He has shown improvement in his second pro season; he batted just .186 in 31 games in the AZL last season and was 5-for-8 in steals. Cleveland picked Sayles, an outfielder, in the 14th round in 2013 after his amazing senior year at Port Gibson. He batted .541 and stole 103 bases, including a hard-to-imagine 12 in one game. Even Billy Hamilton didn’t do that.