Many of us remember the days of the Running Redbirds in the 1980’s. The swipe of a base was at the heart of Whitey Ball. During those days when the Cardinals’ roster starred players like Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Lonnie Smith and Vince Coleman. All of them speedsters and when they reached base it wasn’t if they were going to run, but a matter of when they were going to take off.
Prior to the “catch us if you can” motto of the 1980’s, the Cardinals were the home to one of the greatest base stealers of all time, Lou Brock. The 1960’s and 1970’s base paths were dominated by Brock swiping everything he could. Then things began to change in the 1990’s. The art of the stolen base began to fade away from the game. People wanted to see the long ball, those towering moon shots in to the stands. I like to see the homerun as much as the next fan. But, the stolen base is an important aspect of the game that has really taken a backseat, not just in St. Louis but in all of baseball.
The Cardinals have a rich history in the speed on the base paths and stolen base. However, it is one they have all but abandoned over the past several years. In the 2011 season the Birds placed last in the National League for stolen bases. It is not like they did bad without the stolen bases, we did bring home the Trophy for the 11th time.
The new skipper, Mike Matheny has said since the beginning of his reign the aggressiveness of the Cardinal’s on the bases will be stepped up during the 2012 campaign. I think this is a great mindset. The stolen base is a run generator. It changes the entire aspect of the game. If a pitcher knows that a guy is on first and he is going to stay put unless there is a hit, makes the pitcher’s job a lot easier. It is one last thing that he has to worry about.
Matheny has also vowed to be more aggressive in the running of the base paths as well. He said early on in the Grapefruit league that taking two bases on a hit will be strongly encouraged. I think this tweak in mindset for the offensive of the Cardinals will make them even more dangerous. The team came out of Spring Training with 22 stolen bases. There were 11 Cardinal players, including the old wheels of Lance Berkman that accounted for the thefts.
I think from top to bottom of the lineup, the Cardinals speed does not compare to the Cardinals days of old. But, we do have a few that have the ability to swipe a base here and there. Tyler Greene steps to the front of that line. Greene has yet to be caught in his 16 major league attempts. I also think the addition of Carlos Beltran, even though he may not have the speed he used to have, he still has enough to add stolen bases to the overall team stats for this year.
Matheny has gone on to explain this difference in mindset from the former manager’s tenure. He has they are not going to try to make something out of nothing but rather utilize the speed that they have on the team. Matheny went as far to have Willie McGee come in as a guest coach in Spring Training to talk about being aggressive running the bases.
The players have seem to be excited with that as well. We as fans have seen some of the running already this year. Yadier Molina has even logged a stolen base for himself already in the young season. I don’t think we will see Yadi leading the team in stolen bags, but it is good to see that the mindset is there. As a fan I am excited, another aspect of the game that will be brought back from the days gone by. Catch ‘em if you can!