Will Brett Gardner be the best base stealer that the Yankees have had since…
Well, that’s the thing. Who was the last great Yankees base stealer? Here’s my personal list of who I believe have been the best in Yankeeland at swiping a bag since Big Stein took over the team:
1. Rickey Henderson (1985 to 1989). Really, was there any doubt that Rickey would top this list?
2. Derek Jeter (1995 to present). Through age 30, Jeter did run somewhat frequently. He’s really stopped lately – sans 2006 season. Still, in terms of attempts and success rate, he’s number two here for me.
3. (tie) Alex Rodriguez (2004 to present) and Johnny Damon (2006 to present). Some may be surprised to see A-Rod here – and, so high. But, he really is a good base stealer. It’s a part of his game that some seem to forget – probably because of his power output.
4. (tie) Alfonso Soriano (1999 to 2003), Steve Sax (1989 to 1991), and Roberto Kelly (1987 to 1992). I can’t find a way to say one of these three is better than the others…so, I’m grouping them here. (And, yes, I know that Kelly came back to the Yankees in 2000. But, he was done as a runner then – and was only on that team for a few games.)
5. (tie) Willie Randolph (1976 to 1988) and Chuck Knoblauch (1998 to 2001). Willie really stopped running once he was 26-years old. But, even after that time he was a high-percentage guy. If Randolph ran more, he would have been higher on this list.
Honorable Mentions: Miguel Cairo (2004, 2006 & 2007) and Bobby Abreu (2006 to present). Two guys with good success rates. In a big spot, where a steal is needed, these two would be good candidates to get the job done.
I know what some people may be thinking: “Where’s Mick ‘The Quick’ Rivers?”
Well, first, you have to remember that Rivers only played three and a half seasons with the Yankees. In his first year (1976) and his third year (1978), Mick was a very good base stealer. However, in his second season here (1977) he was a terrible base stealer – in terms of success ratio. So, while Mickey was fast, Rivers was not – at least in New York – the prolific base stealer that his rep painted him to be…on the whole. For me, Rivers sits right outside the “top five” here.
In the end, where Brett Gardner ends up on this list is TBD. Yes, he has the speed. And, yes, he has the desire. But, so did Dave Collins (1982) and Deion Sanders (1989 to 1990) when they were in New York. You see, in order to steal bases, you have to still reach base in the first place. And, that will be the biggest test of all for Gardner…now…and in the immediate future.