Tommy Harper was a veteran thief when he arrived in Boston and promptly went to work with his unique skill set by breaking Speaker’s team record with 54 steals in Harper’s second Boston season. Previously Harper had also led the League in steals (73) while a member of the one year and out Seattle Pilots.
Harper played three years in Boston and went 107/33 and ranks fifth with a 76.43 steals percentage. Harper is also a valued instructor in the art of steals and has passed on his knowledge with the Red Sox and other teams.
Johnny Damon once led the American League in steals (46) while playing for Kansas City. What stands out with Damon is one particular figure – 82.35% and that is his steals percentage – that ranks second on the list since complete statistics are available.
Damon played four seasons in Boston and was 98/21 from his usual lead-off position. In his last season in Boston (2005) Damon made the American League All-Star team and was 18/1 in steals. Damon’s first two Boston seasons saw 61 steals from the Caveman.
Tris Speaker is a Hall of Fame member and a recognized all-time great who was a five-tool player. Speaker once led the league in home runs with ten while with Boston. The hard-hitting Speaker retired with a career average of .345 and the all-time leader in doubles. A splendid outfielder who many consider one of the greatest.
Speaker had speed. In the 1912 WS year, Speaker set the Red Sox record – since broken – for steals with 52 while being caught 28 times. Speaker is in second place on the Red Sox list with 267 steals in nine seasons with Boston.
Coco Crisp was brought in to replace Damon and in one category there was a seamless transition – steals. In three Boston seasons, Crisp was 70/17 for a steals percentage of 80.46 or right behind Damon. Crisp moved on and eventually led the American League in steals (49) in 2011.
The greatest game changer via speed I have seen in a Red Sox uniform is Jacoby Ellsbury who is third on the all-time teams chart for steals with 241. Three times Ellsbury led the league in steals while playing for the Red Sox and just his being on first or even second and third changed the defensive dynamics.
Stealing in any occupation is risky and the warning is “do not get caught” and that applies to baseball. Ellsbury just did not get caught that often. Ellsbury has an 84% success rate in steals with Boston. For his career, it is 83%. Henderson and his 1406 career steals had an 80% success rate.
There is one player now on the Red Sox who if he finishes his career in Boston will obliterate the stolen base records and probably several others or come close to it. I will let the reader take a wild guess on that one.