Pierre chasing Hall of Famers
By Freddy Berowski
Juan Pierre is on the move again – but this time it’s not on the basepaths.
Pierre, the active career steals leader with 459 whose playing time was limited over the last year and a half due to the Dodgers’ acquisition of Manny Ramirez, was dealt on Tuesday to the Chicago White Sox, where he will become their new left fielder and leadoff man. It will be Pierre’s fifth team in what will be his 11th big league season.
“Juan always put the Dodgers first, even when it wasn’t in his personal best interest,” said Dodgers GM Ned Colleti.
Pierre currently ranks 47th all-time on Major League Baseball’s stolen base list. At 32 years of age, before all is said and done, Pierre should have no problem moving up considerably on that list. But the question remains, how many more steals are left in those legs?
At 1,406 steals, Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is baseball’s all-time stolen base king, and the only player in history to steal more than 1,000 bases. When Henderson was 32, he was ready to begin his 13th major league campaign and was only two steals shy of Lou Brock’s then record 938 steals. Rickey went on to play 25 seasons with nine different teams before hanging up his spikes for good and ultimately earning enshrinement in Cooperstown this past summer.
Pierre might not match Rickey’s mark of 1,406, but he could pass several Hall of Famers while moving up the all-time steals list. Pierre has averaged 45 steals per year since 2001 and should pass Hall of Famers Tommy McCarthy and Willie Keeler in 2010. He may also pass Hall members Paul Molitor, Fred Clarke and Luis Aparicio next season as well if he stays healthy.
One thing Pierre has going for him is his work ethic.
“I’ve never seen anyone who works like him – never” said Pierre’s former batting coach with the Marlins, Bill Robinson, “He’s hungry for knowledge, hungry to learn, hungry to play. It’s beautiful. He’s a delight.”
If Pierre maintains a stolen base rate close to his average over the next three seasons, by 2013 he will have also passed several more Hall of Famers: Bid McPhee, Hugh Duffy and Ozzie Smith, and in the process crack the top 20 on the all-time list.
Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.