Juan Pierre of the Chicago White Sox waves to the fans at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
You wouldn't think Juan Pierre could be headed to an all-time record. But if he gets enough playing time for the Phillies this year, he might do just that.
After Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson shattered stolen-base records in the 1970s and 1980s, the career active leaders in that category started sliding down the all-time list. With the retirement of Kenny Lofton after 2007, the active leader is now Juan Pierre with 554 -- but that ranks just 26th all-time. (And he leads active players by a lot -- next on that list is Carl Crawford with 427, 59th all-time.)
In 2011, Pierre quietly tied a major league record. He led the majors in caught stealing with 17 (in only 44 attempts, a poor 61 stolen-base percentage). It was the seventh time he had led his league in caught stealing; only Brock and Maury Wills did that as many times (and both Brock and Wills tied for the league lead once; Pierre has "won" solo CS titles all seven times).
There's an old saying that goes, sometimes ironically: "You have to be good to do that." Pierre has also led his league in steals three times, and his career stolen-base percentage. 74.4, is good, though not outstanding (Henderson, who holds the career records for both steals and caughts, had an 80.8 career percentage).
Pierre might be relegated to part-time status this year; all he's got right now is a minor-league deal with a spring-training invitation from the Phillies. But as Grant Brisbee wrote when this signing was announced, Pierre has an ability that might tempt an old-school manager like Charlie Manuel:
But over there on the end of the bench is Juan Pierre. Speedy little fellow. Hits 'em where they ain't. He's a real sparkplug who can get things going and distract the opposing pitcher. I'm not going to say that's how all managers think. But a couple of them do, at least. And a GM who puts Pierre in the hands of such a manager is an enabler.
Juan Pierre is now 34 years old. Speed is pretty much his only tool; he's never had any power (career .363 slugging) and he can't throw at all. (No, seriously. Have you seen him throw?)
But he's been given more than 700 plate appearances in each of the last two seasons. The year before that, when Manny Ramirez went out with one of his myriad of recent suspensions, Pierre was installed in left field for the Dodgers and hit .318/.381/.411 in the 50 games Man-Ram missed ... and with only seven caught in 28 attempts.
So will Charlie Manuel give in to the "speedy leadoff guy" enticement and let Pierre beat out someone like Laynce Nix for playing time? If he does, Pierre might just wind up with enough stolen-base attempts, and caught stealings, to lead his league in caught stealing for the eighth time and have that record all to himself.