I bought a Compaq Presario with my bar mitzvah money, complete with Windows 95, which became my life coach and spiritual adviser. The state-of-the-art machine included pre-installed AOL for internet browsing with our dial-up modem, a spacious 500 MB hard drive, and most importantly, customizable screensaver options. Instead of trippy, colorful lines and shapes that would portend the original Devil Rays logo, someone in my family set the screensaver to entertaining and thought-provoking quotes.
There’s no better method for burning something into your memory than watching it pinball around a black screen. As such, several of these quotes became integral to my philosophy on life. “Optimists are never pleasantly surprised,” was one of my favorites. I later learned it was paraphrased from Benjamin Franklin, extolling the values of pessimism.
I wavered from this philosophy with regards to Terrance Gore. How could I not? For the first time since the Herb Washington experiment, a team intended to carry a designated pinch runner for an entire season! Excitement could not be restrained, and I strayed from my pessimistic safe zone. I even wrote an article examining whether he could lead the league in stolen bases.
About a quarter of the way into the season, Gore is leading the league in something: caught stealing. He’s swiped just five bases in nine attempts. 24 players have stolen more bags, including 34-year-old Jarrod Dyson and 240-pound Yasiel Puig. The league average success rate is 71.7 percent, but Gore’s is just 55.6.
He certainly hasn’t lost a step. His 30.0 ft/s sprint speed is fourth best in MLB. He trails only Byron Buxton, Adalberto Mondesi, and Isaac Galloway, but the top four are separated by just 0.2 ft/s. He was 27-31 stealing bases leading up to the season, so he clearly has base stealing instincts (unlike Herb Washington). So where has he gone wrong?
April 17th vs. White Sox
While this is indeed a baserunning mistake technically described as caught stealing, it’s not like he was gunned down by the catcher. After pinch running for Jorge Soler, this happened:
“POCS” is a baseball term I had never heard before, but I interpret it as “picked off, caught stealing.” Setting Gore aside for a moment, a pickoff is very different than getting caught stealing. While the result is the same (the runner is out), it’s an entirely different event. In many cases, the runner isn’t intending to steal, but after getting caught too far off the bag has no better option than to break for second base. (If a runner gets picked off but is too scared to move, is that chicken POCS?)
In any event, this goes down as a CS, just as it always has been. MLB is loathe to change official scoring rules— even the dumb ones— so here we are.
April 21st vs. Yankees
A few days later, Gore pinch ran for Hunter Dozier in the tenth inning at Yankee Stadium. Guess what happened?
What the heck, Terrance?!? Another POCS!? Yet again, it’s technically a CS because Gore got overambitious.
April 24th vs. Rays
A double steal attempt with Billy Hamilton! What could go wrong?
Gore and Hamilton are perhaps the most notorious thieves in MLB. Hamilton’s 29.6 ft/s sprint speed is seventh in the league, and he’s one of only two runners who gets from the batters box to first base in less than four seconds.
Both players get slapped with a caught stealing for this dual baserunning brain fart. That’s a 1-3-2-5-1-4 double play if you’re scoring at home, without a pitch having been delivered.
May 1st vs. Rays
In the first game of a doubleheader, Gore pinch ran for Martín Maldonado on second base, and then...
Via the magic of modern medicine, we have immunizations for chicken pox and small pox. For the third time in two weeks, Gore develops a case of POCS. Good thing it’s not contagious.
It appears that Gore is actually 5-5 on legitimate stolen base attempts. A small amount of my faith has been restored. Even more amazingly, he’s batting .375/.400/.500 through 25 plate appearances. Could it be possible that he can actually hit, too?
No. I’m not getting my hopes up again. My Compaq Presario trained me well.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983