Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stealing a Moment

"Well, what I like best...'", and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was even better than when you were, but he didn't know what that that was called".
- from Winnie the Pooh

The score was tied, there were two outs, a runnner on third base and Justin Morneau was at-bat. And all I could think was that I almost wished he wasn't. Not because I didn't trust him to get the big hit. (He did.) But because I really wanted to see Carlos Gomez try to steal home.

It sure looked like he could have. Joe Crede, the White Sox third baseman, was playing at least 25-30 feet from the bag. Gomez could have taken a lead one-third of the say towards home and still beaten Crede back to third base. Frankly, it seems like nobody even considers that the opposing team might steal home. Even though it used to be so common that Babe Ruth stole home ten times in his career.

The situation certainly seemed to call for it. The Twins had been struggling to score runs. There were two outs. Morneau had looked terrible in his previous at-bats. And there was a left-handed pitcher on the mound.

And god knows that if any organization should be able to teach a person how to steal home in this modern era, it's the Twins. Rod Carew, who is at spring training every year, stole home 17 times in his career, and still holds the major league record with seven in 1969. But did you know that Paul Molitor also stole home at least ten times?

But today, for whatever reason, it was never really a threat. Gomez never took much of lead, never getting half as far from the base as Crede was. Go-go didn't even play games with the pitcher, as if it never evern occurred to him to consider bluffing, let alone actually doing it.

And, truth is, it probably wasn't a good time. After all, this is Morneau, and he did get the game-winning hit. Plus, I wonder if it's more difficult to steal home with a left-handed batter at the plate. And, it's likely that this is something that the Twins staff is afraid to work with Gomez on, because he does seem to be (as was aptly noted by Patrick Reusse yesterday) the most spontaneous player in baseball.

But count me as someone who is officially looking forward to Eating That Honey. I grew up with Sir Rodney, but to me he was the sweet hitter, not the sneaky thief. Sometime within the next couple years, we're going to see Gomez at least try that play. And the only thing I'm looking forward to more that it is the moment just before it, when the crowd is on their feet, and the whole ballpark, including the opposing team knows it's coming. And then....

Well, I don't know what it's called, but it's even better "than when you were". And I sure want to be there.


Anonymous said...

Apparently Gardy was pretty pissed that Gomez stole 3rd earlier with Mauer at the I am betting Gardy had him well planted at 3rd.

jesse said...

I don't think the Twins are opposed to the idea of Gomez swiping home...or attempting to...but it just wasn't the right situation. You said it yourself--Morneau at the plate, and he swings from the left side of the plate. Not only is one of your best hitters at the plate, but with no obstruction the catcher could see the entire thing develop in his peripheral vision.

But, if it had happened, even with him picking it up in his peripheral vision, he would have had to be crapping his pants.

I've never seen home get stolen. I'm jonesing to see it once.

BeefMaster said...

I wasn't watching the game, and I didn't notice on the radio - was the pitcher in the stretch? I guess I can see stealing home on a lefty in the stretch, if he's paying little enough attention to the runner that you can get a phenomenal jump (and he doesn't use a slide step every time), but I generally think of a steal of home as coming when the pitcher is throwing out of the windup. Is it more common against a stretch than I'm thinking? I've only seen a steal of home happen once in a major league game, and it was on a first-and-third double steal (Gladden at third, and Jim Dwyer, of all people, at first).

Of course, once Gomez catches a guy doing that, he'll never have another pitcher throwing from a windup when he's at third.

Anonymous said...

It is possible to steal home with a left handed batter. Ideally it would happen with a guy like Ortiz at the plate since the infield shift is on and the third baseman is a long way from the bag, allowing a longer lead.