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Old School Thief


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Most of the Florida Marlins were enjoying their favorite Philadelphia tourist attraction -- room service -- when Juan Pierre and Lenny Harris got a burst of energy and took a shopping trip to the Mitchell & Ness sporting goods store last week.


The Marlins teammates love vintage sports apparel, and they weren't disappointed by the inventory. Harris bought a Denver Broncos jersey with linebacker Karl Mecklenburg's name on the back, and Pierre took a shine to a Doug Williams Grambling football jersey.


But the real treasure, in Pierre's estimation, was an old St. Louis Cardinals shirt with "Brock" stenciled on the back. As an outfielder with a knack for stealing bases and an appreciation for baseball history, Pierre viewed the chance encounter with a Lou Brock jersey as the browser's equivalent to hitting for the cycle.


"He lit up like it was Christmas," Harris said. "But it was about 400 bucks. That was too high for him, so he's going to get it through the equipment manager. It costs less that way."


Pierre, informed of Harris's comment, denied that the Brock shirt is still in the store because the price was too steep. "They didn't have my right size," he said.


The way Pierre steals bases, collectors might be fighting over his vintage jersey in a few years. With 61 stolen bases this season, he's about to wrest the National League title from teammate Luis Castillo. Two more steals and he'll finish with the highest total in the big leagues since the Diamondbacks' Tony Womack stole 72 in 1999.


Juan Pierre

Center Field

Florida Marlins




154 1 41 94 61 .300

Marlins coach Ozzie Guillen ranks Pierre on a par with Vince Coleman, Tim Raines and Rudy Law, who peaked with 77 steals for the White Sox in 1983 before fading from the majors at age 30. In Pierre's case, success is less a question of raw speed than gaining precious ticks that mean the difference between a "safe" call and having a glove and ball slap his hand at the bag.


Pierre works obsessively on his jumps during batting practice, and spends hours looking at video to dissect pitchers' moves. "He's like Tony Gwynn with that tape, except with base stealing," Harris said. "He watches everybody."


With his jacked-up steal numbers, Pierre is bucking a trend. First the advent of the slide-step helped counter the running game by reducing the amount of time it took pitchers to deliver the ball to home plate. Now the "Moneyball" fraternity has determined the benefits of stealing a base aren't worth the potential risk of wasting an out.


Pierre's 61 steals this year exceed the total for five teams -- Texas, Colorado, San Francisco, Oakland and Toronto. Pierre has more steals than the Athletics and Blue Jays have attempts.


Juan Pierre

Juan Pierre is a little old school when it comes to the running game.

"So many of these guys are so strong now, hitting the ball out of the yard, teams don't want to run into any outs," Pierre said. "They feel like you're in scoring position if you're on first base. I think that's the approach a lot of teams are taking with how they're building their lineup."


In Florida, manager Jack McKeon gives Pierre and Castillo the freedom to keep trying even after they fail. Pierre has been caught stealing 19 times this year -- second most in baseball behind Detroit outfielder Alex Sanchez -- and Castillo has a poor success rate of 20-for-38.


As the Marlins enter the final week in a wild-card death match with the Phillies, Pierre thinks he has enough spring left in his legs to steal another bag or two. He shared some bests, worsts and other basestealing insights with Baseball Insider.


Pierre's basestealing role models: Rickey Henderson and Kenny Lofton.


"Lofton is the one I really watched," Pierre said. "He'd just go out there and do it. I liked his style, so I tried to pattern my game after his. He wouldn't hit for too much power. He'd only hit seven or eight home runs, but he bunted and ran and did all those types of things."


Toughest National League pitcher to steal on: Atlanta's Mike Hampton.

"He's tough to figure out, because he looks the same when he goes home or comes over to first," Pierre said. "He doesn't really tip anything off. It's pretty much the same. And he's athletic, too."


Two guys Pierre was glad to see switch leagues: Brian Anderson and Terry Mulholland.


"Anderson was really tough. I've seen him pick off guys who weren't even running. They were getting in their secondary leads and getting picked off. His move is just ridiculous.


"Mulholland is so quick to home plate -- he's like 1.1 -- you don't even try. I never got fooled against him, because I was always leaning back to the bag. It would be dumb to even try to run off him."


NL catchers who give him the most trouble: St. Louis's Mike Matheny and Los Angeles's Paul Lo Duca.

"The one I probably fear the most is Pudge (Rodriguez), but he's on our squad now, so I don't have to worry about him anymore."


Toughest NL park for a base stealer: Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

"They keep their field too wet. It can be sunshine outside, and it's always wet in St. Louis. Always. You don't have good traction. You're always sliding and stuff. They have a good defense, so I don't know why they keep it so wet."


Favorite NL parks for stealing: Pro Player Stadium in Florida, and anywhere with artificial turf.

"I like running on turf," Pierre said. "I just don't like stopping on it. I'm only good for about three days, though. I wouldn't want to play a whole season on it. I'd probably have to play the outfield in tennis shoes to keep from wearing down."

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