Washington’s young, 23-year-old shortstop, CJ Abrams, “broke Trea Turner’s 2017 [single-season stolen base] record on the final day of the season,” the Nationals wrote in the 2023 Season in Review, “… with two stolen bases against the Atlanta Braves.”
Abrams’ manager, Davey Martinez, was asked after the regular season finale if the shortstop was aware of the record going into Game 162 of 162.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Martinez told reporters, though he said he thought for a moment Abrams’ got picked off trying to get to the franchise record-setting mark when reliever Joe Jimènez threw over twice in a row after Abrams’ RBI single tied things up at 7-7 in the eighth inning of the game. “He wanted it. When he took two steps and the guy threw over, I thought, ‘Oh, no, no, no,’ and he was safe, I thought, ‘Okay, he should be okay now,’ and I’m glad he got it.”
With MLB’s rules limiting pitchers to two “disengagements” (including throws over to first) per plate appearance, the speedy Abrams got a big lead and stole base No. 47 on the next pitch.
“[Abrams] led Major League Baseball with 36 stolen bases from July 7 - the day he moved to the leadoff spot - through the end of the season,” the Nats noted.
“Ronald Acuña Jr. was second with 32 stolen bases over that span,” the club added:
“Abrams was caught stealing just four times, the fewest of any player with at least 40 stolen bases in Major League Baseball this season... This included a stretch of 25 consecutive stolen bases without being caught, the longest streak in [Nationals’] history.”
“He’s been getting better and better every day,” Martinez said of Abrams’ base-stealing game. “I hope he understands what kind of player he really, truly, could be, because he could be an impact player moving forward. I loved his energy the last few months, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I just talked to him before you guys got in and I told him I was very proud of what he did, very proud of how he turned himself around, and that we got to keep moving forward, and he totally agreed.”
Abrams gave his first base coach, Eric Young, Jr., credit for helping him get to that mark, and improve his running game overall.
“It’s an honor,” Abrams said of setting the franchise mark, as quoted by MLB.com writer Jessica Camerato. “It shows that the hard work pays off — me and E.Y. … are doing our homework. All the little things pay off in the long run, and next year we’ll see if we can get more than that.”
The Nationals noted that the mark set by Abrams was not just impressive in terms of the club’s franchise records.
“According to the Elias Sports Bureau,” they wrote in their Season in Review, “Abrams was one of seven shortstops in Major League Baseball history (done nine times) to hit at least 15 home runs and steal 45 bases in a season … [and] he was the second-youngest to do so behind Hanley Ramirez (17/51 in 2006; 22.282 years old) and ahead of Alex Rodriguez (42/46 in 1998; 23.063), per Elias.”
Acquired from San Diego in the high-end prospect package Rizzo got in the 2022 trade which sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres, Abrams is already playing like the player they thought he was when they scouted him before the mega deal.
“His whole game has elevated a lot,” the skipper said in early September, “… but when we traded for him, this is the kind of kid we thought [we were getting], and it’s happening fairly quickly. He hasn’t played very much professional baseball. We’ve been teaching him on the run, and he’s very astute, he learns as he goes, but he wants to get better.”