Don’t look now, but it appears the Padres are trying to bring back 1980s baseball all on their own.
The stolen base hasn’t exactly been in vogue with MLB teams recently. Take the 2019 “Bomba Squad” Twins, for instance, who combined to steal just 28 bags last year. But in a strange 60-game season, the Padres are running like wild and making the steal a big weapon. The Padres stole three bases in their come-from-behind, 8-7 win over the Rockies on Friday night, giving San Diego 14 steals through its first eight games of the 2020 campaign — six clear of the second-place Mariners and the rest of the field.
That would put the Padres on pace for roughly 284 steals over the course of a normal 162-game season, a single-season total that would be completely unheard of in today’s homer-happy offensive climate. No team has racked up even 200 steals in a season since the 2007 Mets, and one has to go all the way back to one of the most famous thieving teams in modern history — Whitey Herzog’s '85 Cardinals (314 steals) — to find the last time a club topped the Padres’ pace of 284. The '16 Brewers’ 181 steals marked the highest total of the entire 2010s.
The Padres’ stolen bases have come from the threats you might expect: Tommy Pham leads the Majors with five steals, followed by Fernando Tatis Jr. with three, Trent Grisham and Jurickson Profar with two and one apiece from Manny Machado and Wil Myers. And speed is already leading to more speed for the Friars: Each of Pham’s two steals on Opening Day were unchallenged because the D-backs were concerned about Tatis coming home from third base — a daring act he’s been known to pull off once or twice. On Friday, Grisham stole second base in the top of the ninth to put pressure on Rockies closer Wade Davis, who soon gave up a three-run, tie-breaking homer to Pham.
Outfielder Edward Olivares is the only Padre who has been caught stealing, though San Diego also entered Friday’s action having been picked off an MLB-most three times. Still, while many teams seem to be putting steals on the backburners in efforts to preserve potential outs on offense, new manager Jayce Tingler seems committed to keeping the throttle open with his athletic roster.
“We’ve got a group that’s got a lot ability, is talented, has got some wild stallions at times that run,” said Tingler on Thursday. “In order to get the best out of them, sometimes we’ve got to open it up. We’re going to make some mistakes, but the last thing we want to do with this group is put any restrictions and handcuff them in any way.”