Sporting leagues should enact a per game minimum of fun-yet-stupid plays attempts. For the NBA, each squad should be required to take at least 15 30-foot plus jumpers. There should be at least two trick plays per team in NFL games. I don’t know what it is for soccer or hockey. Maybe it’s something along the lines of Mario Balotelli attempting a back heel with a wide-open look at goal. (For Joe Judge, it would be attempting a pass beyond the sticks on third-and-long, but alas he’s no longer a head coach.)
Take the Seattle Mariners’ Julio Rodriguez for example. The rookie center fielder leads the league with 11 stolen bases on 14 tries. However, he’s been in position to steal a base 52 times this season, so he’s only been sent 27 percent of the time. Granted some of those opportunities have come with Rodriguez on second or third, and analytics hate running, but for the sake of action send him.
If Scott Servais needs a response for the snarky question that some token hipster beat writer found on Twitter, just be honest and say, “You know, I just said to myself, ‘Fuck it, let’s have some fun.’” Yes, that sounds like a recipe for internet shaming, but as long as you’re not intentionally walking in runs because you’re trying to impress progressive baseball writers, who cares.
I sincerely wish we could go back to a time when coaches let stubborn superstitions dictate their decisions. Everybody is too fucking smart now. There’s a stat and an answer for every argument and situation, and that’s great, but I want to see Russell Westbrook take 35 pull-up jumpers per game (just not for my team).
You know what kind of football plays are the best kind of football plays? Trick plays. A wide receiver or running back dropping a dime for a touchdown is every bit as enjoyable as that same skill player chucking up a 50-50 ball that gets picked. You know, the kind of sequence that leads to an analyst joking, “That’s why he doesn’t play quarterback.”
What’s not to love about a guy stopping mid breakaway to plie and flub a back heel wide right of the post? (Yes, I linked the Balotelli highlight twice because it’s fucking amazing.) So I’d love it if Rodriguez tried to nab a bag every time he gets an opportunity.
We’re about a quarter way through the MLB season and the stolen base leader has 11 bags. Rodriguez is on pace for 44. The last player to steal more than 50 bases in a season was Dee Strange-Gordon with 60 in 2017.
Kenny Lofton stole more than 50 bases six times in his career. In 1996, he stole third base 24 times. Strange-Gordon’s record for third bases swiped in a season is nine. I know Lofton is 15th all time in career steals, but it’s not like Pre-Strange-Gordon was slow.
During my in-depth research for this prolonged rant, I clicked on a random season in the ’80s to see what the running game was like back then. In 1985, eight players stole more than 50 bases. Vince Coleman led the majors with 110, and combine that with opportunistic teammates Willie McGee (56), Andy Van Slyke (34), Tom Herr (31), and Ozzie Smith (31), and the Cardinals had 262 stolen bases between five players alone. The eight most prolific base stealers in 2021 combined for 262.
The top three guys in ’85 — Coleman, Rickey Henderson (80), and Tim Raines (56) — had 260 total; the top eight combined for 531. I know this piece is emitting old man yells at cloud vibes at a staggering rate, but listen to what I’m saying. I’m advocating for mandated fun. Requiring a minimum number of stolen base attempts is unrealistic, and the way batters are getting on base this season, it’d lead to catastrophically worse scoring outputs. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more entertainment from a game.
Twitter might OD on outrage if a team tried a flea flicker on third and short while up four with less than two minutes remaining in the game. That doesn’t mean it’s bad theater, though.
So, baseball managers, send your runners. Try a suicide squeeze. Everybody gets a turn at internet dunce eventually. Your stint might even be abbreviated if it comes in the name of merriment.