Top 5 most unbreakable records in baseball: #4-Rickey Henderson’s 1406 career steals

Top 5 most unbreakable records in baseball: #4-Rickey Hendersons 1406 career steals

In 2003, Rickey Henderson retired from baseball with 1,406 career stolen bases. His rare mixture of speed and quick judgement on the base path allowed him to become the all-time leader in stolen bases in the MLB. His obnoxiously large lead of 468 steals is just one of the reasons I find this record to be the fourth most unbreakable record.

On May 1, 1991, Rickey stole his 939th base, surpassing the great Lou Brock as the all-time stolen base leader. At that point, he was used to setting records, having broken Ty Cobb’s American League single season stolen bases record in his very first season. Just two seasons later, he broke the first of two of Lou Brock’s records: the all-time single season stolen bases record with a whopping total of 130. One might say he was born to steal bases and Lou Brock’s records.

Now that you know a little bit about how dominant Rickey Henderson was on the base path, let me explain to you why his record is never going to be broken.

The utilization of the stolen base has become far less common in the MLB. From 1976 to 1992, teams stole more bases than hit home runs in eight different seasons. The average number of stolen bases per game has dropped from .85 in 1987 to .51 in 2022. Baseball has evolved into a show-boat, home run era, leaving behind base stealing. Hitters are far more concerned about hitting the ball hard and far rather than being able to run ninety feet during a pitch. It makes sense too because as long as you’re on base, when your teammate hits his so desired homerun, you’ll score your run no matter what base you’re on.

As technology and technique is evolving in the modern era, pitchers and catchers have been and will continue to throw faster and faster. It’s easy to realize that the faster a ball is thrown, the sooner it reaches its destination. Therefore, the ball is reaching the second baseman waiting at the bag a little sooner which makes it more difficult for a runner to get to the base on time. A 100 mph pitch takes roughly 375-400 milliseconds – about the time it takes to blink – to reach home plate. The average catcher’s pop time (time from when he catches the ball to when the ball reaches 2nd base) is about two seconds. That doesn’t give the runner very much time to reach the bag. At that point, he is essentially racing against the time it takes the pitcher to release the ball after he starts his wind-up, as well as the time it takes the second baseman to set the tag.

Dee Strange-Gordan has stolen 336 bases up until this point, making him the closest active player. He started his career in 2011, which makes this past year his 11th season. While he still has a decent number of seasons left in his career as long as he stays healthy, he does not have nearly enough to be able to steal 870 more bases.

The only argument for the record potentially being broken is the upcoming rule change to enlarge the bases. While it’s a minor increase in size, it could play enough of a factor in producing more attempts to steal attempts and ultimately more successful steals. However, I feel it still couldn’t possibly be enough of a change that allows a player to come anywhere close to breaking Henderson’s record.