By Jon Weisman
In today’s feature on A.J. Ellis, the Dodger catcher said he had no idea how high he ranked among the franchise leaders in games caught.
But there was one piece of history that Ellis was acutely aware of. That’s when I asked him if he remembered his last stolen base.
“That hasn’t happened in the Major Leagues, I know that,” Ellis said. “I think I’m top five without a stolen base for as many (times on base) as I’ve got.”
He was exactly right. Ellis has reached base 632 times in his career, without a steal. In MLB history, only four steal-heeled players, led by Russ Nixon (835), have been on the bases more — though Wilson Ramos, the opposing catcher in the recently completed series against the Nationals, is coming up, well, fast behind Ellis.
Ellis has a firm grip on the Dodger franchise record, having sped past Al Ferrara.
How badly does Ellis want to get a steal before his career is over? Or does he even want one?
“It’s kind of getting to that point now where it’s a fun fact about me,” Ellis said, “but, no I do. I’m always looking. I want to get one off somebody that it would really tick off. Like I want to get one off (Madison) Bumgarner, I think. That would really tick him off, to see that I stole on him. But he’s tough.”
Ellis said he had a close call once upon a time. It came on June 11, 2012, on a vintage Ellis night: 0 for 0 with four walks.
“It’s funny,” Ellis said. “I was on first base, and LaTroy Hawkins was on the mound. And Davey Lopes came up behind me and said, ‘Hey, this is the guy you can get. As soon as he comes set, count to one and take off. He goes every time.’
“So sure enough, LaTroy does it. He gets set, comes at one, and I take off. And he didn’t throw the pitch, and I got picked off. That was like the only time I was really, really trying to go.”
Officially, the play wasn’t recorded as a stolen-base attempt, of which Ellis has three in his career: one in 2011 and two in 2013.
“It’s gonna take either somebody who’s not paying attention to me, or it’s gonna take a 3-2 count where a guy swings through a pitch, and I’m sliding in or I back in,” Ellis said. “But I’m always looking for that first one. And it’s gonna be a Rickey Henderson moment, where I pick the bag up and hold it over my head.
“I want to stop at one, too. I don’t want to have more than one. I just want one.”
As for that last stolen base? It was actually the eighth of his minor-league career — in 22 attempts.
July 30, 2010. Triple-A game vs. Iowa at Albuquerque. Jeff Samardzija (who would ultimately allow 11 runs in five innings) on the mound for the Iowa Cubs, with none out in the bottom of the third inning, the Isotopes already leading, 8-4.
Ellis was on second base, and Justin Sellers on first. Albuquerque pitcher Charlie Haeger was at the plate. It was a bunting situation, meaning it’s likely that it played out just as Ellis would imagine. But he doesn’t remember. We just have the description:
- A. J. Ellis steals (1) 3rd base. Justin Sellers steals (3) 2nd base.
That stolen base was nearly six years ago. The world waits with on the edge of its collective seat to see if there will be one more.