Goldman: Don Baylor was far more than his legacy suggests

From SABR member Steven Goldman at FanRag Sports on August 7, 2017:

Bill James has often observed that as first-hand memories of a player fade, his career gets reduced to his statistics and a few simple impressions on which his image centers. If that’s true, then Don Baylor was subject to that reductive process even as his playing career was still ongoing. By the time he was 30, Baylor was down to one word, “leader,” and everything else, with the exception of “hit by pitch,” became an afterthought. It’s a shame, because Baylor had more dimensions than that.

The oversimplification of Baylor happened in part because the longtime designated hitter, who succumbed on Monday after a long struggle against multiple myeloma, was as mercurial of an offensive performer as his personality was consistent. When he was young he was fast and stole a lot of bases, peaking at 52 with the 1976 Oakland A’s, a run-mad team. For a while, it seemed as if he might become the third player after Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds to join the 300 home runs-300 steal club, but as his career went on he thickened physically and emphasized power at the expense of speed. He finished with 338 home runs and 285 steals; he still ranks 10th in the latter category among players with 300 or more career home runs. Though he stopped running, he never ceased being a terror to middle infielders in breaking up a double play.

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Originally published: August 7, 2017. Last Updated: August 7, 2017.