The White Sox provided one early sign that it was going to be a rough season when they touted the addition of Vince Coleman, then could only convert on one-third of their stolen-base attempts over the first five weeks.
It ended up being a little unfair to Coleman. While he was brought on to be a baserunning instructor for everybody in spring training, the fruits of his labor were far more evident in the minor leagues, where guys like Tim Anderson, Adam Engel and Eddy Alvarez pushed their basestealing games to the next level.
But Sox fans only saw the guys running into outs in front of them. The jokes were there for the taking, and they were took.
Along those lines, here's a dispiriting coda: For the first time since the Go-Go Sox were invented ... the White Sox failed to steal third base over the course of a season.
They only "tried" three times -- more on that in a bit -- and they weren't successful in any of them. Going through Baseball-Reference.com's detailed team stats year by year, it turns out the Sox hadn't done that since 1949, when Jack Onslow's 63-91 team went 0-for-5 in that category.
It's always surprising when something is done -- or not done, in this case -- for the first time in 66 years. In between, the White Sox stole third at least twice in every season except 1976 (when they were only 1-for-3) and 1950 (1-for-2).
However, the signs -- or lack of signs, in this case -- were there. Robin Ventura's Sox have only tried stealing third base 14 times over his four years as manager, with eight successful attempts. Juan Pierre, meanwhile, went 10-for-10 by himself during his bad year in 2011.
Part of it is attributable to players and their preferences. Alexei Ramirez has attempted 189 steals over his eight-year career, but he's only tried for third three of those times (with a 100 percent success rate). Adam Eaton only has two attempted steals of third in his two years, and both were back in 2014.
But it also seems to be a reflection of the manager. Alejandro De Aza is a good example, as he was an active baserunner for both Ozzie Guillen and Ventura, although not always for the better.
- 2011: Three attempts for third out of 17 attempts (17.6 percent) over 54 games.
- 2012-14: Two attempts for third out of 88 attempts (2.3 percent) over 406 games.
This isn't necessarily a negative with Ventura, but it is a distinguishing feature. Guys like Pierre and Scott Podsednik have said that stealing third is easier than stealing second, and Pierre certainly backed that up with a 50-percent success rate at second in that same season he went 10-for-10 at third. But Ventura hasn't been equipped with a guy who steals in bulk and would have a green light on his own, and that would tell us better than anything whether Ventura's staff truly puts up the stop sign after second base.
It's just funny the Sox made this kind of history in the same year Coleman came aboard. Maybe it would've been different had they not run into so much early failure on the basepaths. Maybe somebody like Tyler Saladino will give the Sox a basestealer with confidence in such situations. Maybe it'll be different next year when Ventura has a different bench coach telling him the odds. Or maybe this will only change when managers do.
And for an extra kick in the pants: Here are the three stolen-base attempts that were foiled.
The catcher was not involved with any of them.
Micah Johnson on April 10:
That was the first MLB stolen-base attempt for Johnson, and it wasn't much of one, as Tommy Milone picked off Johnson with a spin move. That one hurt, as the Sox were only trailing 1-0, and Jose Abreu was on deck with one out out. It ended up being the fourth-biggest play of a game the Sox eventually lost 6-0.
Tyler Saladino on July 29:
Another Tommy (Layne), another pickoff. This one was easier to accept, as the White Sox were leading 6-1 in the sixth inning. Also, Saladino had stolen second the pitch before, so there's some of that confidence I was talking about. Then again, he never tried for third the rest of the season. Perhaps Ventura took away his keys.
Geovany Soto on Aug. 8:
This was Soto's only attempted steal of the season, and it was a situation in which a stolen base was impossible -- a 3-2 count with two outs and a runner on first. So yes, it's another pickoff.
Also, it was a 3-2 count with two outs and runners on first and second and Abreu at the plate in a one-run game. This GD team.