While Ronald Acuña Jr.'s pursuit of 40 homers/70 stolen bases might be stealing the majority of the headlines -- and it should be, it's crazy! -- save a little room on the back pages for Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman, who's sprinted into rarely-trod territory for first basemen in 2023.
MLB's rule changes for this season were implemented in an effort to speed up the game while simultaneously infusing it with action. Ticking clocks were placed on pitchers' deliveries. Infielders were restricted to smaller plots of land. The Seventh-Inning Stretch was replaced with something called the "Five-Alarm Water Balloon Fight" (Eds. Note: Unconfirmed).
The league's introduction of larger bases flew slightly under the radar, but the split-second saved running between first and second was expected to goad some of the game's top burners into stealing more bases and forcing more errors out of an allotment of pure chaos.
It was not expected to turn Freeman into a 20-homer/20-steal first baseman, only the 11th full-time first baseman to accomplish the feat in MLB history and first since Ian Desmond back in 2018.
Desmond! Freeman! Two of a kind!
Which MLB players did Dodgers' Freddie Freeman join in 20-homer, 20-stolen base club?
It's a hilarious smorgasbord of seasons, running the gamut from Hall of Famers like Orlando Cepeda in 1959 and Jeff Bagwell in back-to-back seasons (1996, 1997) to incredible "Remember That Guy?s" like Earl Torgeson (The Earl of Snohomish, 1951 Boston Braves) and Kevin Young (1999 Pirates!).
Freeman's speed demon tendencies didn't start on a dime in 2023. In fact, he stole 13 bags (more than Mookie Betts) in 2022, his first season in Los Angeles. This topped his previous career high of 10, set back in 2018 when he was 28 years old and reckless (he was caught three times).
This season, the Dodgers' heart and soul has been on an entirely different level, though, only being caught once. Freeman credits first base coach Clayton McCullough, who was nearly hired as the Kansas City Royals manager last fall, for aiding him with pregame preparation and route planning.
Something tells us the brainstorm wouldn't have struck McCullough's brain, though, if the league hadn't tweaked the bases and invited veterans to introduce a new element of cat-like quickness into their portfolios. Hopefully, Freeman goes 30-30 next year and makes Jose Canseco's reading glasses fall off into his crab bisque with shock and horror.
Next up on the docket? Earl Webb's long-standing record of 67 doubles in a single season. Pretty impressive, sure, but I bet Webb would have his mind blown by Freeman's speed (as well as being transported to the 21st century).