Speed kills, and it may kill the 2023 Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Will speed on the bases be on an uptick for 2023, and just how will the Boston Red Sox fit into this potentially new visit to the past? The reasoning is the design of the bases now looks like the pillows manufactured by Mr. Pillow, who repeatedly hawks them on television.

Ty Cobb was once asked about his routine of kicking the first base bag. The now-retired Cobb said he always booted the sack toward second to give him just an extra inch or two on a steal. Cobb may have been a despicable and ruthless individual, but the man was clever in the mechanics of baseball. Now there is no need to kick the bag for a few extra inches.

A look into whether or not the 2023 Red Sox can pose a threat on the basepaths

The Red Sox have rarely led the American League in steals. The team was all too often designed with Fenway Park in mind, and the three-run homer supplanted steals. Now for a brief Red Sox history and steals before moving on.

Buddy Meyer was the first Red Sox to top the AL in base pilfering, who swiped 30 for the 1928 Red Sox. The Red Sox finished dead last, and Meyer was rewarded for his efforts by being traded to the Washington Senators.

Boston then went on a leadership binge with Billy Werber notching back-to-back titles in 1934-1935. Werber was shipped to Philadelphia after the 1936 season for Pinky Higgins, whose "history" is now well-documented for incompetence and racism.

The Red Sox soon had another SB champion in a deal with the Senators in June of 1937. Ben Chapman came to Boston, and Champan's baseball history is documented in the movie "42." The reality is Chapman was a fine baseball player with a career .302 average and a lousy person.

Boston had to wait until 1950 for another leader, with Dom DiMaggio stealing a paltry 15 bases. That represented the all-time low for leadership in the AL, but Boston soon had another champion in 1954 when Jackie Jensen stole 22. Jensen was a five-tool marvel comping speed and power.

Boston acquired Tommy Harper in an offseason deal in 1971 and was rewarded two years later, with Harper leading the AL in steals with 54. That brings us to the age of Jacoby Ellsbury and three championships in the steals department, including the team's single-season record of 70.

Now what?

Speed is more than just stealing a base; just the mention of Dave Roberts can define the significance and importance of that singular event. Is there anyone on the roster for the present or future that can do just that? Speed in the lineup to take advantage of the extra base and not station-to-station? Often a far more important ingredient in the 162-game grind.

Red Sox may face a speed bump in 2023 with lack of base-to-base speed and the ability to steal a base.

Adlaberto Mondesi can supply the steal, or can he? Mondesi was picked up to reinforce potentially troubling infield issues and to provide a spark on the basepaths. Mondesi led the AL in steals (24) in 2020 and is now recovering from significant knee surgery, and an ACL tear is not comforting news.

In 2022 the Red Sox stole just 52 bases, placing them just ahead of Detroit and Minnesota for last place. The good news is they were nabbed just 20 times, so a certain degree of selectivity did exist, but back to the bad news.

Trevor Story (13) and Xander Bogaerts (8) topped the team, and both are gone - well, Story may or may not be back this season, and as a side note, Story was not caught once. Next in line was Jarren Duran with seven, and Duran may still need to make the opening-day roster.

Examining the farm system, only one player with a possible impact this season is classified with plus speed. Ceddanne Rafaela has impressed, and speed may be a decision-maker on the sudden hot shot getting a roster spot sometime in 2023. Otherwise, the cupboard is empty.

A new metric and "new metrics" apparently proliferate like dust on top of the refrigerator is sprint speed., as tracked by Baseball Savant. The measured feet per second indicate base running and defensive speeds.

The leader for the Red Sox was Duran in 2022 at 29.2 Ft/Sec. After that, the following four are Connor Wong, Franchy Cordero, Story, and Yu Chang. Story is gone, and the OBP of the others is not exactly scintillating. Christian Arroyo and Bobby Dalbec are the only others above league average, with Triston Casas (24.9) edging Rafael Devers (25.5) for last place.

Steals are significant, but so is the ability to run the bases and go first to third on a single to right, which can be considerable with the new shift rules. A far more common use of speed is the movement of runners rather than a straight steal, but that straight steal has the roster wanting.

In the last few seasons Boston has witnessed some rather interesting bonehead plays on the bases. Devers certainly is one whose ability does not equate to his desire. Devers is not alone and at least can be forgiven for the occasionally dereliction of a baseball basic by crushing a ball. Others are not so fortunate. Unless Mondesi is 100% recovered the stolen base threat level may be zero.