Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cards Are Thinking Stolen Base; Matheny Says Base Runners Have Green Light, Will Be Aggressive

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cards Are Thinking Stolen Base; Matheny Says Base Runners Have Green Light, Will Be Aggressive

Article excerpt

JUPITER, Fla. * Gone are the days of the Cardinals stealing 300 bases. Or 200. Or even 100, a total they haven't eclipsed since 2004, when they stole 111 in winning 105 games and the National League championship.

The stolen base was a huge part in the Cardinals winning the National League title in 1982, 1985 and 1987. But they have been successful lately without stealing.

In 2014, they went to the league championship series after stealing just 57 bases, second lowest in the league to eventual World Series champion San Francisco, which had 56.

The year before, the Cardinals were last in the league with 45 steals but wound up in the World Series, just as they finished last in 2011 with 57 steals as they captured the World Series.

But when a club doesn't hit a record-shattering .330 with men in scoring position every season, as the Cardinals did in 2013, stolen bases become more valuable.

"I always like stolen bases when we're safe," manager Mike Matheny said, with a smile. "I think we've got a few guys with legitimate stolen base potential.

"We're going to continue to be aggressive with it, even though it may not appear (so) by the statistics. We want all these guys looking for that opportunity to run, and we're not holding them back a lot of times.

"Good pitching and good catching can shut down the running game. We give (the players) the green light but if they just don't feel comfortable with their jumps, they're not going to go."

Kolten Wong stole 20 bases in two-thirds of a season last year, and newcomer Jason Heyward swiped 20 in Atlanta. Peter Bourjos stole 22 bases for the Angels four years ago.

But Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, who swiped 580 bases in his career, cited another Cardinal as a potential 20-base stealer. That would be Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals' leadoff man, who pilfered only five bags last year.

Smith, in fact, had a base-stealing discussion with Carpenter the other day in camp.

"There's plenty of guys in baseball that aren't necessarily blazing speed guys that steal bases," said Carpenter.

"He was telling me, 'If you improve your technique, you don't have to be fast to steal bases.' And I agree with him. That's completely accurate."

Smith advised, among others things, that Carpenter be more aggressive with his leads off first. "Looking like you're stealing, making them think that you're stealing every time you get on there," said Carpenter, quoting Smith.

"So when you do get a chance to go, it still looks the same because you're not doing anything different, as opposed to 'I never steal bases, so I'm just going to stand here and then, oh, wait, (they're) telling me to steal.'"

Carpenter said, "The key is to camouflage that by doing the same thing every time. He also said that for a guy like me, I have no track record for stolen bases, so I could catch the league by surprise. …

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