If Dee Gordon of Miami wins the batting title against this year, it will be the first time a National Leaguer has gone back-to-back in that category since Larry Walker in 1998 and 1999.
Of course, Miguel Cabrera strung three American League batting championships in a row from 2011-13 and did it again last year but let’s focus here. The idea is to emphasize something really positive as an opening thought about the Miami Marlins, not about one of their stars who got away.
Can’t do much better than Gordon if that’s the case.
As new manager Don Mattingly prepares Miami’s pitchers and catchers for their opening workout at Roger Dean Stadium Friday afternoon, and as new hitting coach Barry Bonds tries to get used to the image of himself in a Marlins uniform, Gordon is the guy with the most momentum around here.
In addition to his .333 batting average from last year, Dee has long been one of the biggest pests you’ll ever find once he gets on base. He has led the NL in stolen bases for two seasons in a row, with 58 in 2014 and 64 the previous season in Los Angeles.
The last guy to lead the NL in batting and stolen bases in the same season? Jackie Robinson in 1949.
That’s one of the quirks about the Miami franchise. From the very beginning, the Marlins have featured uncommon speed somewhere in the lineup, guys who can start a rally all by themselves with a walk and a steal.
Since the expansion season of 1993, a Marlins player has led the NL in stolen bases six times. That’s more than any other NL team over the same period.
The list includes Chuck Carr in 1993, Quilvio Veras in 1995, Luis Castillo in 2000 and 2002, Juan Pierre in 2003 and Gordon last season.
The New York Mets come in second over that same period with four NL stolen base leaders. Jose Reyes did it for them three times in a row from 2005-07 and you’ll notice that he wound up being a target of the Marlins organization, too. Miami had him during the experimental season of 2012, and Reyes finished third in the league in steals that year.
What does all this mean? Not a great deal, probably, once Giancarlo Stanton steps into the batting cage and starts launching balls into space with Barry looking on. That’s what everybody wants to see.
Mattingly will see more in the Marlins’ lineup, however, beginning with Gordon at the top. He’ll have to see more, too, and do more with what he’s got than any Miami manager has since Fredi Gonzalez. Fredi is the last one to post a winning record, way back in 2009, and he did it with a guy even more versatile than Dee Gordon.
Hanley Ramirez led the NL in batting (.342) that year, tied for sixth in RBI (106) and tied for sixth in stolen bases (27), all of which placed him second in the league MVP voting behind Albert Pujols, but there I go again talking about the Marlins who got away.
Spring training is here, and Dee Gordon soon will be, too. For now, that really should be enough.