Phil Rogers

Coleman helping White Sox craft new identity

Coleman helping White Sox craft new identity

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The hallway between the White Sox clubhouse and the players' dining room is lined with large photos from their recent past, with an emphasis on the 2005 World Series team. One of those captures Scott Podsednik with the swing of a lifetime.

Podsednik is seen hitting the 12th-inning homer that won Game 2, a homer that, oddly enough, was only the second home run he hit that season. It would have been far more fitting had Podsednik been pictured sliding into second with a stolen base or sprinting around third to score from first on a double.

Podsednik disrupted games with his legs that season, setting the tone for a team that figuratively went from 0-to-60 as quick as Vince Coleman in his prime. But that was a long time ago, and aside from getting a league-high 68 stolen bases from Juan Pierre in 2010, the White Sox haven't scared anyone with their speed.

Enter Coleman.

One of only four Major League players to steal 100-plus bases in a season, the former Cardinal has joined the White Sox as a baserunning instructor to work with players throughout the organization. In just the first 10 days of Spring Training, he has already begun to change the culture, and he promises that his work will make a major difference over the course of 2015.

"We're going to paralyze the opposition," Coleman said on Monday.

Oh, that's all?

General manager Rick Hahn admits that the White Sox left "room for improvement" in their baserunning in recent years. Manager Robin Ventura says that the teams built around the hitting of such guys as Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and Jose Abreu tended to be "lumbering."

Both Hahn and Ventura hope that Coleman's impact will be felt on a roster that added Adam Eaton as a leadoff man a year ago and should gain more speed with Emilio Bonifacio and perhaps Micah Johnson (who had a Minor League-leading 84 stolen bases in 2013).

The White Sox were ninth in the American League in steals last season, with 85. That's 229 fewer bases than Whitey Herzog's Cardinals had in 1985, when Coleman stole 110 and four teammates added 30-plus.

"Back in '85, '87, when teams came in to play us, they were nervous, they were scared, they were paralyzed," Coleman said. "They played on their heels. That's the type of atmosphere you want to create."

Baserunning was a lost art back then, with teams slugging their way to the postseason. It has become a bigger part of the game these days, although statistical analysts become critical when teams give up outs on the bases or by bunting over runners.

The Royals emphasized the speed game while rolling to the World Series last October, but Coleman points to the 2002 Angels as a team that showed how baserunning can be a weapon, always pushing to take extra bases.

"You turn the whole ballgame around when you show aggressiveness," Coleman said. "[When] Mike Scioscia got the managing job over with the Angels, his first thing when he got to Spring Training was [aggressive baserunning]. They were going first to third. Remember the World Series? That's the mind-set he started in Spring Training, because he remembered playing against the Cardinals. He used an example of Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr [going] from first to third all day long. That was our mind-set."

Coleman spent the past two seasons working with Houston's prospects. He changed the way Jose Altuve ran, from a crouch to a more upright style, while helping such players as George Springer, Delino DeShields Jr., Brett Phillips and Carlos Correa.

Although it's Correa's bat that has him rated as one of the game's most promising players, he went 20-for-24 in stolen-base attempts in 62 games before being injured last season.

While getting to know the White Sox personnel, Coleman has been putting them through drills designed to help them get better leads and remain on the balls of their feet, always ready to break for a base if a pitch gets away from a catcher.

His philosophy is simple.

Every base hit, think about turning it into a double. If it's a double, think about making it a triple. Hit every base as hard and fast as you can and anticipate a mistake by the fielder.

"Every opportunity that presents itself, the teams that go first to third, that take advantage of extra bases every time they're offered, win more ballgames," Coleman said. "Lots of people underrate baserunning. Nobody pays attention to the detail of baserunning. You know every year during the playoffs and World Series, the only thing [announcers] talk about is how bad the baserunning is. I'm pushing the envelope every day on leads and jumps and tracking the ball off the bat."

Alexei Ramirez's 21 stolen bases led the White Sox last season. That's surprising given that it's the speedy Eaton who is the leadoff man and instigator. His speed was compromised at times by injury last season, but he often played it conservatively on first base in deference to Abreu's power.

Coleman believes that a baserunner limits himself when he worries about getting caught stealing.

"Out of the 750 bases I stole throughout my career, there wasn't one time I was scared," Coleman said. "It's like a guy breaking into a house. He ain't worrying about getting caught."

Bonifacio stole 26 bases between the Cubs and Braves last season. Johnson, who is trying to win the second-base job, had his steals total cut to 22 last year as he battled hamstring problems, but he is healthy and ready to wreak havoc again on the bases, as he did in 2013.

"He's so cocky, which I love," Coleman said. "He reminds me of myself. He's a student. I love his energy."

Coleman sets the bar high for his newest baserunning students, and he believes the return could be far beyond what most in the White Sox camp are envisioning.

"When you find a good baserunner -- because they're hard to find -- they're worth their weight in gold," he said. "You potentially have four guys here who can steal 50 or more bases. That in itself is exciting. It puts me on the edge of my seat and makes me want to be there for every ballgame, not miss anything. To share my knowledge, trade secrets, craft, I'm thrilled to help build that identity. That's what we want to have, a new identity."

How about the Chicago Paralyzers? Sounds a little more like indoor football, but it'll be fun to see if Coleman can make it stick.

Phil Rogers is a national columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.