Salk: There’s no Rickey Henderson in Seattle, but the Mariners will be faster on the base paths

Jan 31, 2017, 1:45 PM | Updated: 1:55 pm
New Mariner Jarrod Dyson stole 30 bases in 2016, more than half of Seattle's team total of 56. (AP)...
New Mariner Jarrod Dyson stole 30 bases in 2016, more than half of Seattle's team total of 56. (AP)


It’s a skill the Mariners attempted to collect back at the start of the Jack Zduriencik era when they traded for Franklin Gutierrez to roam center field and signed Chone Figgins to be a pest on the basepaths.

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Well, injuries and ineffectiveness, respectively, busted that plan and leadership moved in a different direction. But with the offseason additions of shortstop Jean Segura and outfielder Jarrod Dyson, the Mariners are back on the fast track to being demons on the bases.

“He’s gonna be my new favorite Mariner. He’s fast,” 710 ESPN Seattle’s Gee Scott said of Dyson. “I like baseball players with speed, not rocks in their drawers like Austin Jackson had. I like speed.”

Dyson, who was acquired via trade earlier this month for pitcher Nathan Karns, is known for his vivacious personality (quoted at Mariners FanFest as saying “Wherever I go, the champagne flow”) and driving opposing pitchers crazy on the base paths during the Royals’ run to back-to-back World Series appearances. He finished the season 10th in the MLB with 30 steals, which is actually less than that of Segura, who’s 33 ranked seventh. As Shannon Drayer wrote after the trade, the Mariners finished the year with 56 stolen bases while the trio of Dyson, Leonys Martin and Segura combined for 87 in 2016.

But before anyone gets carried away about the Mariners running their oppositions out of the park, Mike Salk held up the stop sign.

“Yes, I’m really excited for Jarrod Dyson, (but) this is not Rickey Henderson,” he said, noting that Henderson once swiped 130 bases in a season. “I just want to remind people.”

For all of the talk about Dyson’s speed, Salk said it’s important to remember that Dyson only has four career postseason steals. With that said, sometimes it’s more than just the stats that can have a major impact on a game.

“Guy’s got four postseason steals. He’s 4 for 6 in the postseason. Isn’t that weird?” he said. “As much as you think of him driving everybody crazy on the base paths, and he did, I think he affected the game a lot more than those four steals would indicate.”

The other consideration is how Dyson will react to a potentially increased role. While Dyson has generally improved in each of his seven seasons, he had a career-high 337 plate appearances in 2016. That’s almost half the appearances of an everyday player. Salk said it appears that manager Scott Servais would like to see Dyson in more than just a platoon role and bump his plate appearances closer to 450. And that comes with uncertainty.

“Look, I’m not saying he can’t handle that, but your flaws start to get exposed the more you’re playing,” Salk said. “If you’re a left-hander, now you’ve got to start facing more lefties. You still want him running around. Well, the more he runs, the more wear-and-tear it takes on his body. He’s 32 years old this year. Few people get better, get faster when they’re 32, as opposed to when they’re 28.

“Look, I like Dyson and I’m excited about what he’s going to bring to the table, but part of the advantage I felt like he always brought to Kansas City is that he didn’t start all those games. You could bring him in in the eighth inning when you needed a run. You could bring him in in the ninth inning to steal a bag and take somebody out and then trust him that he was a good enough hitter to go back into the game and still be part of it.”

While Salk thinks Servais hopes Dyson will be a leadoff hitter, he would rather see him at bottom of the lineup.

“If he does actually turn it on as a top-of-the-lineup guy and he gets on base 34 percent of the time, which he did last year, and then you’re digging into the heart of that order with Segura, who had 20 home runs and can run and can handle the bat, and then you get Cano, and Cruz and Seager, etc., I think lineup could really be fun to watch,” he said. “But I just have that moment of caution.”

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