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“Most exciting play in baseball” making serious resurgence.

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Maybe it’s because I have the fast twitch muscles of a turtle, but stealing home has always amazed me. I’m not talking about the back end of double steal cop-outs or steals garnered from broken plays, I’m talkin’ ’bout the straight steals of home, or what’s better, and aptly, known as the most exciting play in baseball.

The sheer physics behind stealing home plate seem implausible. How can one beat a hurtling orb traveling upwards of 80 miles-per hour over 60’6″ behind the physical limitations of their legs over a more substantial 90 feet?

It’s mind-boggling.

Straight steals of home have happened intermittently over the past couple years. Omar Vizquel has a flair for the dramatic, doing it three times over the last decade. Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford did it a couple years ago, too. So did Toronto’s Aaron Hill. Still, chances are you missed ’em. For the past couple years, the play has been like Bigfoot; you may hear about sightings, but where and when and how it happened are things of myth.

But that’s not the case these days. Ever since Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury stole home off the Yankee’s Andy Pettitte in April, there’s been a fire sale on stealing runs. There’s been 22 attempted robberies this year, a marked increase from previous years. Only eight of those have been successful, and furthermore, only four of those have been of the straight steal variety.

In addition to Boston’s Ellsbury, Philadelphia’s Jayson Werth did it in late April. Last Sunday, the Angel’s Gary Matthews Jr. and the White Sox’s Chris Getz became the latest crooks. Matthews’ was a pure straight steal and while Getz is credited with a straight steal, the allure of his nabbing is diminished because of the rival Cub’s poor defense.

Matthews’ steal came against the Diamondback’s Max Scherzer, a guy who is slowly becoming reputable for his slow motion to the plate. Matthews barely missed the tag applied by catcher Miguel Montero but upon replay, it’s apparent he was safe. It was the second straight steal of home of his career; in 1999, Matthews scored his first career run the hard way.

Matthews in before the tag!

Getz’s robbery also came against a right-handed pitcher, in the form of volatile Cub’s ace Carlos Zambrano. The team anticipated the steal, but Zambrano threw way wide of catcher Geovany Soto and the run was scored a straight steal. While Getz was definitely breaking for home and the straight steal, Zambrano’s poor throw completely kills the beauty because we’ll never know if he would have been safe or out.

For a while now, I’ve been predicting that the trend will stop as more and more base runners get caught and essentially, give up an out. Players are getting thrown out more and more everyday, but with these recent developments, it’s clear that the play is still on the rise.

And I’m all for it. Let the players run roughshod!

Ted Keith, of Sports Illustrated, has an awesome article about the resurgence of the play.

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