Baseball is a game of specialists. There are all-or-nothing sluggers, weak-hitting infielders who’re slick with their gloves and left-handed relievers who’re expected to neutralize a couple of key hitters per game.
But because the Mets prepare for his or her wild-card series against the San Diego Padres, and a possible deep run within the postseason, they’re committed to perhaps the sport’s most specialized player: Terrance Gore, a speedy veteran who’s officially an outfielder but spends nearly all of his time on the basepaths.
There is no such thing as a other player like Gore. When he comes into the sport, everyone within the ballpark knows he’ll try to steal, and his margin of error is zero. The appeal and the drawbacks are obvious: A stolen base can start a rally, while a caught stealing can kill one.
That pressure doesn’t trouble Gore.
“Before it’s happening, I can see it unravel in front of me,” he said of the moment before he is named to pinch-run. “I’ll be jittery, but as soon as I take step one of my lead, every thing slows down.”
Along with his unique role, Gore has built a unusual résumé filled with the sorts of stat lines that baseball nerds like to cite. He has only 16 profession base hits, but he has stolen 43 bases. He has more game appearances (112) than plate appearances (85). This yr, Gore has stolen three bases while collecting just one hit, a single in Wednesday’s season finale.
Perhaps essentially the most compelling statistic? Gore has three World Series championship rings, greater than the remaining of the 2022 Mets combined. On a team with several stars, including Pete Alonso, Edwin Díaz and Jeff McNeil, who don’t have any postseason experience in any respect, Gore is a grizzled veteran, even when he only has one profession R.B.I.
Gore earned his first World Series title in 2015 as a late-inning catalyst for the Kansas City Royals, who topped the Mets in five games. He was later signed by the 2018 Cubs for his or her playoff run, and in that yr’s wild-card game, he stole a base and scored the game-tying run, though Chicago lost in extra innings.
The remainder of the league was taking notes. With Gore seen as someone who could provide a lift during tightly contested postseason games, he was signed by the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers on their solution to a title and the 2021 Atlanta Braves on the solution to theirs. In each case, he spent a lot of the yr within the minors before being called up for September and October. He is named upon only occasionally, but his game-changing speed keeps earning him postseason roster spots.
Adding to Gore’s atypical profession, he is named only when his team is desperate. “As much as I would like to get in the sport, it might be good in case you don’t see me,” he said. “In case you do see me, it means it’s time for me to save lots of the day or something.”
Gore has played only in parts of ten games for the Mets, but they got a glimpse of his impact on Sept. 18. Within the eighth inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gore was brought right into a tie game as a pinch-runner for catcher Tomás Nido. Spooked by Gore’s presence, Manny Bañuelos tried three unsuccessful pickoffs in a row. On Bañuelos’s first pitch home, Gore took off for second, sliding in safely. Higher still, the catcher’s throw went wild into center field, allowing Gore to get to 3rd base on the error. 4 pitches later, he scored the game-winning run on a bloop single.
The Mets are dreaming of the same scenario playing out within the postseason, and if it does, it should be because not only of Gore’s speed, but additionally his work ethic. Gore spends most of each game preparing for a giant moment. He runs sprints within the tunnels underneath the stadium. He studies the opposing team’s relief pitchers, memorizing their pitching motions and searching for subtle indications of whether or not they’re going to throw home or attempt a pickoff at first. He believes this work can mean the difference between a win or a loss.
Manager Buck Showalter, who faced Gore’s Royals teams in his time with the Baltimore Orioles, has been impressed with Gore’s intelligence and preparation.
“Before we brought him up, I asked our Triple-A people if he just shows up and has got a God-given skill. It’s quite a bit greater than that. He’s smart. In case you had that skill set and also you knew every October, you were going to be playing, you’d do every thing possible to take care of it, and that’s what he does. He takes pride in it. He works at it and doesn’t want it to go away. You already know, he’s not 23.”
While Gore is 31 — an age at which many players begin to see their speed decline — his skills could come into play much more next season because of latest rules that were created specifically to incentivize base stealing.
Together with the installation of a pitch clock, and the banning of the shift, Major League Baseball announced last month that pitchers could be limited to 2 pickoff attempts before they have to deliver a ball to the plate — a setup that may give someone like Gore a straightforward greenlight to steal a base after drawing two throws. The bases will even increase in size, reducing the gap between them barely while adding more surface area for a sliding player to grab in a detailed play. Even the pitch clock, a key component of the league’s effort to hurry up the sport, could allow base runners to time pitchers with more confidence.
These changes could lead on teams to experiment with adding speed to their rosters.
But Gore scoffs at the concept that any fast guy — think Herb Washington, an All-American sprinter signed by the Oakland A’s in 1974 to middling success — can learn the ins and outs of base stealing overnight.
“I do loads of homework,” he said. “You may’t just go get a track guy and tell him to run the bases and see what happens. He is likely to be successful a pair times, but his percentage is just not going to be good. You’ve got to know the sport. You’ve got to know the pitches, the pitch count, who’s hitting, who’s playing first base.”
In Gore’s eyes, he’s not only a runner. He’s a baseball player, and he would love the chance to prove it again. He lit up on the mention of his 2019 season with the Royals, wherein he saw some playing time as an outfielder and hit .275 with a .362 on-base percentage.
“Say those stats slightly louder,” he said with amusing.
But at this stage of his life, Gore has accepted his role as a specialist.
“It’s what it’s,” he said. “I’ve had an amazing profession. I wouldn’t change anything that happened.”