To illustrate a point about baseball’s most overlooked superstar, Kevin Long reached for statistics no player has bundled in more than a century. Trea Turner, the Washington Nationals shortstop, is the fastest everyday player in the majors. He also hit .335 last season. Those skills can make a coach dream big.
“Let’s say he hits .330 with 75 stolen bases,” Long, the Nationals hitting coach, said by phone from spring training in West Palm Beach, Fla. “His No. 1 tool is his speed, no doubt about it. But is the industry recognizing that? No. Well, you know what, Trea, let’s use that tool and take this thing to another level. I don’t know if he’s willing to do that. I wish he was, because he’s that fast. And I think he could do it.”
The last player to hit .330 with 75 stolen bases in the same season was Ty Cobb in 1915. Players still hit .330 these days, but the notion of swiping 75 bases — which happened 20 times in the 1980s — is out of step with the modern game, with its all-too-precise replay cameras and general aversion to risk. No player has stolen 75 bases in a season since Jose Reyes in 2007.
Could Turner do it? Probably. And if he did, he might command the kind of attention that surrounds his shortstop peers, like the San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr., who signed a 14-year, $340 million contract extension last month, and the quintet of All-Stars eligible for free agency next winter: Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs, Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros, Francisco Lindor of the Mets, Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies.