February 18, 2003

More on Rickey

Last week, I wrote an entry devoted to Rickey Henderson and I discussed whether or not he was a good option for a team to sign.

After looking at his performance during the past few seasons, I decided that he was certainly still a valuable player and someone that many teams could definitely use.

Then, yesterday, I saw the following story in the Denver Post:

Henderson considers tryout

Apparently, Rickey Henderson - one of the greatest baseball players of all-time - is seriously considering attending an open tryout with the Colorado Rockies that is usually reserved for high school and college players looking for a chance to get their feet in the door.

Here are some quotes:

"I talked to Rickey yesterday, and he told me he's leaning toward showing up at the Rockies' tryout camp next week," said Jeff Borris, Henderson's agent.

"Usually, these tryouts are for high school or college players who are looking for a shot," said Jay Alves, the Rockies' media relations director. "They're normally not for future Hall of Famers."

This strikes me as a very sad and unfortunate situation.

Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest and most interesting players in the history of pro baseball and, as I discussed last week, he is certainly still a valuable player.

The fact that he is completely without any opportunities for a job while teams give Major League contracts to guys like Neifi Perez and minor league contracts to guys like Keith Lockhart is nothing short of ridiculous.

I am holding out hope that Rickey finds a job, because he obviously still wants to play Major League baseball.

And, if a 44 year old still wants to play and is still able to add something to a team, why shouldn't he get that chance?

If you played baseball for a living and played it for the majority of your entire life (counting the minors, Rickey has been playing pro baseball every year since 1976), would you want to stop playing, even though you were still a good player? I doubt it.

If there isn't a General Manager out there that thinks he can use an outfielder that has posted on-base percentages of .368, .366 and .369 over the past 3 seasons and has stolen 69 bases at a 78% clip during that same time span, there are some GMs that need to do some serious thinking about their ballclubs and themselves.

In case you're wondering, Henderson posted a .277 EqA last year.

That figure of .277 would have...

...ranked him 2nd on the entire Pittsburgh Pirares team (among everyday players), behind only Brian Giles (.351 EqA).

...ranked him 2nd on the Baltimore Orioles, behind only Gary Matthews Jr. (.289).

...ranked him 2nd on the Detroit Tigers, behind only Bobby Higginson (.280).

...ranked him 4th on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, behind only Aubrey Huff (.309), Randy Winn (.289) and Ben Grieve (.282).

...ranked him 4th on the Kansas City Royals, behind only Mike Sweeney (.328), Raul Ibanez (.295) and Carlos Beltran (.289).

...ranked him 4th on the New York Mets, behind only Edgardo Alfonzo (.307), Mike Piazza (.303) and Mo Vaughn (.283).

...ranked him 4th on the San Diego Padres, behind only Ryan Klesko (.323), Mark Kotsay (.288) and Ron Gant (.286).

...ranked him 4th on the Atlanta Braves, behind only Chipper Jones (.335), Gary Sheffield (.315) and Andruw Jones (.297)

...ranked him 4th on the Chicago Cubs, behind only Sammy Sosa (.332), Mark Bellhorn (.304) and Fred McGriff (.294).

There are more than a dozen teams in baseball that Rickey Henderson would have been one of the top 5 or 6 hitters on the team for.

And all he wants is a job as a backup!

In addition to that, his .277 EqA was better than the following 1B/DH/LF/RF-types, all of whom will have starting jobs in 2003:

Jose Cruz Jr.

Juan Gonzalez
Tino Martinez
Richard Hidalgo
Randall Simon
Robert Fick
Marty Cordova
Carlos Pena
J.T. Snow
Travis Lee
Sean Casey
Jay Gibbons
Russell Branyan
Todd Hollandsworth
Roger Cedeno
Doug Mientkiewicz
Jeff Conine
Jeromy Burnitz
Moises Alou
Juan Encarnacion
J.D. Drew
Matt Lawton

I don't mean to imply that Rickey Henderson is a better player than those guys or even that he deserves to start ahead of them.

What I do mean to imply is that that list is pretty damn long and if those guys have full-time, everyday jobs as Major League first basemen, designated hitters and corner outfielders, don't you think that just maybe there is a place for Rickey Henderson on a few rosters?

I mean those are starting players for teams and Rickey posted a better EqA than every single one of them in 2002.

You don't even want to get into how many bench players he was better than.

And all he wants is a job as a backup!

Before I stop babbling about Rickey Henderson, I just want to post his career statistics, because they are nothing short of amazing:

   G     AVG     OBP     SLG     HR     2B     RUN     HIT      BB      SB

3051 .279 .402 .419 295 509 2288 3040 2179 1403

Those are some absolutely crazy numbers.

And, keep in mind, his "rate stats" (batting average, OBP, slugging %) have all fallen quite a bit recently, as Henderson keeps playing well past his prime.

Plus, Henderson did all that while playing most of his career in very bad ballparks for offense.

The Oakland Coliseum was one of the worst parks for hitters in all of baseball during Rickey's first 6 years there (I say "first" because he has had 3 stints with the A's).

He then moved on to New York and played 5 years in Yankee Stadium, which was a slight pitcher's park back then.

Then, back to Oakland and the Oakland Coliseum for another stint.

He has also played his home games in Jack Murphy Stadium (aka Qualcomm), Shea Stadium and Safeco Field, all of which are good park's for pitchers.

Some all-time ranks...

His 2,288 runs scored ranks 1st all-time; the closest active player is Barry Bonds, who trails Rickey by about 450 runs.

His 2,179 walks ranks 1st all-time, ahead of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and about 250 more than Barry Bonds.

His career total of 5,316 times on base is 3rd all-time, behind only Pete Rose and Ty Cobb; Bonds is the closest active player and is nearly 1,000 behind.

His 3,051 career games played ranks 4th all-time, behind Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski and Hank Aaron.

His 3,040 career hits ranks 21st all-time and he got all those hits despite the fact that he has walked over 2,000 times in his career.

His 4,566 career total bases ranks 32nd all-time, ahead of Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, Eddie Matthews, Harmon Killebrew and Mark McGwire.

His 509 career doubles ranks 34th all-time, ahead of every active player besides Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds.

His 295 career homers ranks 98th all-time (I bet you never thought of Rickey Henderson as a home run hitter, huh?)

And, perhaps the most amazing stat of all...

Rickey Henderson has stolen 1,403 bases in his career, which ranks 1st all-time.

The next closest player is Lou Brock with 938, which is 50% fewer than Henderson has.


To put that in context, if Babe Ruth trailed Hank Aaron in homers by 50%, he would have hit 504 home runs, to Hank's 755.

The 3 closest active players in stolen bases are Kenny Lofton, Barry Bonds and Roberto Alomar.

If you add up the career steals of all 3 of them, they narrowly edge Rickey, 1,463 to 1,403.

Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest, most unique and least appreciated players in the history of baseball.

In his prime, he was on base constantly and was wrecking complete havoc on the bases.

And I'm not talking about the kind of havoc guys today wreck, I am talking about some serious havoc!

Rickey often walked and proceeded to steal second AND third base and he led his league in stolen bases 12 times, which is a Major League record, of course.

He stole 100+ bases 3 times, including 130 in 1982 and he had on-base percentages of at least .390 in 17 of his first 18 seasons in the Major Leagues.

Alfonso Soriano was only 24 years old last year and he led the American League in stolen bases with 41.

If he steals 100 bases a year until he is 38 years old, he'll only be 17 steals behind Rickey Henderson.

Think about that for a second.

So, Rickey, good luck on the job search.

I am definitely rooting for you and I'd love to see you hitting and walking and running and talking in 2003 in the Major Leagues.

If you can't find a gig for this season, I look foward to seeing you in Cooperstown in 2007.


"This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey."

---Rickey leaving a message on the answering machine of San Diego GM Kevin Towers

"Listen: People are always saying, 'Rickey says Rickey.' But it's been blown way out of proportion. People might catch me, when they know I'm ticked off, saying, 'Rickey, what the heck are you doing, Rickey?' They say, 'Darn, Rickey, what are you saying Rickey for? Why don't you just say, 'I?' But I never did. I always said, 'Rickey,' and it's become something for people to joke about."

---Rickey on 3rd person

"My job was to get on base and score runs. If I didn't concentrate on getting on base, there's no telling how many hits I'd have. I have 2,000 walks, so how many swings is that? My No. 1 goal always has been scoring runs."

---Rickey on his approach to hitting

"To be in a class with Babe Ruth, you can't ask for anything more. Walks have been underappreciated. It's lost in the stats sheets. It lost its appeal somewhere. Another thing lost in the stats is on-base percentage. That's the most important thing in baseball. If nobody's on base, nobody scores."

---Rickey on breaking the career walks record

"Let's see, for breakfast Rickey will have bacon and eggs, and grits if I can get 'em. Then I'll have a good meal after the game, either the clubhouse buffet or at a restaurant someplace. I'll eat a steak sometimes, sure. But not too much. I always leave something on the plate. Never eat till I'm full; pick here and there, eat small, eat often."

"I really don't snack in the dugout. Seeds are going to make us fat. I tried them, but they're really not that good for me. I am always telling everyone to lay off the seeds or else they'll be getting fat. There's fat in those seeds. And they always say 'Right, there's a lot of fat in a seed.' Maybe my favorite is water. Water's kind of boring though. I like to chew bubble gum. Maybe that's my favorite. Rickey's going with bubble gum."

---Rickey on his diet

"Why you talk about when a player wanna quit? What is that player's ability? How much does he enjoy the game? Can he still compete? My grandmother didn't stop working when she was 40, and my mom sure didn't, either. There is nothing in life that says you have to quit at a certain age."

---Rickey on retirement

And finally...

"Rickey Henderson is a confident young man."

---Grady Little, Red Sox manager, on his 43 year old backup outfielder

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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