Introducing… Steve Sax

A fleet-footed second baseman, Steve Sax was one of the top run-getting middle infielders of his time.  Able to take the extra base like a Deadball Era player, Sax wreaked havoc on the base paths for a number of years with the Dodgers of Los Angeles.  A five-time All-Star, Steve, like Cal Ripken Jr., played briefly at the Major League level with his brother Dave, a backstop.

Steve won the 1982 Rookie of the Year Award when he paced National League second basemen in runs scored and stolen bases.  He hit .282 as a freshman and made his first All-Star team, taking the second base job away from longtime Dodger Davey Lopes.  He had some solid company in the Rookie of the Year vote, just edging out Pittsburgh second baseman Johnny Ray and beating such notables as Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, and All-Stars Steve Bedrosian, Chili Davis and Willie McGee. 

Sax put Mercury to blush in 1983 by leading Major League second basemen with 56 steals.  He led senior circuit second basemen in base hits and was named to his second All-Star squad in his second go-round on the ballot.  Sax regressed in ’84 but rebounded in 1985.  That year Steve hit .279 and helped the Dodgers reach the postseason again.  In the NLCS, Steve hit Cardinal pitchers at a .300 clip but it wasn’t enough to topple the Redbirds.

Steve’s finest year came in 1986–his sax tuned to perfection.  He led Major League second basemen with a robust .336 batting average and was the only big league second basemen to reach 200 hits and 40 doubles.  His on-base percentage was a nifty .390 and the All-Star Team beckoned him again.  But Steve had the misfortune of playing second base in the same league as Ryne Sandberg and although he put up fine stats in 1987, Ryno bested him in almost every offensive category–Steve was able to lead NL second basemen in stolen bases. 

Stealing bases was Sax’s specialty and he topped NL second basemen in thefts in 1988 as well as hits.  Steve led the Dodgers to an NL West pennant and an eventual World Series Championship over the Oakland A’s.  Against the boys in green, Sax hit an even .300 in the Fall Classic. 

Reaching his height in the late 1980s, the time of free agency, Steve tested the free agent waters in 1989 and was reeled in by the New York Yankees–big players in every free agent market.  Sax went to the American League and didn’t miss a beat.  He led Major League second basemen in steals his first year in the Bronx and was the lone Major League second baseman to reach 200 base hits.  The Yankees buying Sax’s contract looked like money well spent.

Named to his fifth All-Star squad in 1990, Sax led Major League second basemen with 43 steals–he was only caught nine times.  His last year in the Bronx was a healthy one.  Steve hit .304, stole 31 bases, slapped out 38 doubles and banged out 198 base hits.  Despite all that, the Yankees shipped Sax off to the White Sox after the season for a trio of pitchers, Big Bob Wickman, Melido Perez and Domingo Jean.

The Yankees must have been run by prophets because Steve lost his game in the Windy City.  His batting average fell to .236 his first year with the Pale Hose and he never recovered.  The White Sox released him before the 1994 season and he played one final year with the Oakland A’s.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,769/R 913/H 1,949/2B 278/3B 47/HR 54/RBI 550/BB 556/SO 584/SB 444/BA .281/SA .358

www.baseball-almanac.com

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1 comment
  1. brettkiser said:

    Steve Sax is at the top of a list of fine 1980s second basemen with good careers: Johnny Ray, Bill Doran and Jody Reed. But, guys like Ryne Sandberg, Lou Whitaker, Willie Randolph and Frank White also played during this decade and have more career games under their belts than Sax. A fleet ballplayer, Sax’s HOF chances are very weak.

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