Let’s just take a page from ESPN’s Skip Bayless’ book and call speedy Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury “ Team Obliterator”—but in a good way.
Ellsbury set a Red Sox record with five steals on Thursday against the Phillies, the most for a major league player since Carl Crawford—who shares the modern-day record with Otis Nixon (Atlanta ’91) and Eric Young (Rockies ’96)—swiped six bags in ‘09.
Billy Hamilton (1884) and George Gore (1881) hold the all-time record with seven.
Ellsbury, a career .281 hitter and 2008 AL Rookie of The Year started out as a low-power, freakish-speed guy who could alter games with his base-stealing.
Who can forget when he swiped home against the Yankees?
In his first two-full seasons he was a Brett Butler, set-the-table, type of cat. He hit just 17 homers in 1302 at bats, but he was killing the base paths, leading the AL in steals in ‘08 and ‘09.
Then after missing 144 games in 2010 with rib injuries, Ellsbury morphed into Ken Griffey Jr. in ‘11 and banged 32 homers. His steals dipped to a respectable 39, but Ellsbury earned the only 30-30 stud in Red Sox history.
The power jump was ridiculous. He also flashed more leather than a mistress, in centerfield. But missing 88 games in ‘12 and getting moved to third in the order , saw his stolen base totals drop further to 14. Ellsbury, an official member of the Colorado River Indians Tribes, has been on a soul search ever since.
He started this season sluggishly, hitting just .241 as of May 20. His bat and power may have temporarily failed him, but he never stopped running.
Now, it seems his stride has helped him regain his stroke and Ellsbury’s not only hitting .400 since then, but he’s racking up crazy steals and is the Sultan of Swipe again in the MLB with a league-leading 21.
“It brings our offense to another level, that speed factor,” Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said . “He can run at will. It’s a pretty big part of our offense when he’s playing like that.”
Ellsbury may even hit 30-dingers again, but he’s at his best when he’s gapping triples, swiping multiple bags, giving pitchers the sweats and keeping the Red Sox atop the AL East standings.