Henderson, a .294 hitter in his 6� seasons, last year hit 24 homers, becoming the first American Leaguer to hit more than 20 homers and steal more than 50 bases; with 15 homers and 51 steals at the All-Star break this year, he could become an unprecedented 30-100 man. And, as Henderson points out, "I haven't gotten hot yet." When Boros managed Oakland in 1984, he tried to encourage Henderson to sit on fastballs when he was ahead in the count and drive them for power. Henderson resisted. "I'd made my living getting on base and running," he admits, "and I didn't understand. I do now."
"They're set apart from other great leadoff men in almost every way," says Herzog. " Coleman can run with them but can't hit or walk with them." Of other modern leadoff hitters, Mickey Rivers couldn't walk with them. Wills didn't have their power, Pete Rose never had their speed. Bobby Bonds, when he led off for the Giants, comes the closest to them, but he couldn't withstand the constant pounding of stealing bases.
" Henderson can walk, run, steal, hit for average and hit for power and drive the pitcher crazy," says Yankee general manager Clyde King. "I don't know of anything else there is for a leadoff hitter to do. He'll be the first to have 100 walks, 100 steals and 25 homers in a season. To me, he's the greatest leadoff hitter in the game, and of all time. I don't know of one in the past who could do all the things he does as well as he does. When I was with Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson was the master of rattling the pitcher. Jackie had great body control, instincts, coordination, but he didn't have the pure speed Henderson does. Like Jackie, Rickey unnerves just about everybody."
While there are a great many similarities between Raines and Henderson, they have very different personalities. Raines is one of the most popular players in the game, noted for his engaging batting cage banter. He is also respected for the honesty and grit he showed in 1982 in dealing with his cocaine addiction. Other teams worry about him on the field, but they hold no animosity toward Raines.
Henderson, on the other hand, can infuriate opponents. A private person, he has a strut that would make Mick Jagger envious, and his arrogance can be seen in his one-hand, snap catches. "I used to think he made it hard on himself because so many people want him to fail," says Boston manager John McNamara. "But now I think he's so self-confident, he uses it to his advantage." Says Mattingly, "As soon as he gets into the on-deck circle, all attention is focused on him. Managers yell at pitchers, catchers yell at infielders...and pretty soon balls are bouncing all over the place."
Because of his extreme crouch, which leaves about a 10-inch strike zone, Henderson is, says Ron Guidry, "probably the hardest man in baseball to pitch to." When he fights for that strike zone, Henderson infuriates the opposition. "He'll drive you crazy," says Earl Weaver. "He intimidates umpires. I guess they don't want to see that show he puts on. I know I'm tired of seeing it. But what are they going to do? If they call a strike on him, Steinbrenner sends a film to the league office and gets a meeting with the president of the league." Henderson has also been known to take long strolls after called strikes, but then he says, "I've got my own clock." That may explain some of his tardy pregame arrivals. And he does have style. Nobody wears a uniform the way Henderson does, nobody's wrist bands are more fluorescent, nobody's eye-black is as defiant to the sun.
"All I'm doing is having fun, that's the way I've always done it and I don't care if some opposing pitcher doesn't like it," says Henderson with a laugh. Oh, that laugh. "Rickey can hurt a pitcher more by doing psychological damage than by hitting a homer," says teammate Butch Wynegar. "He's on first base and he turns into a puma—a laughing puma. He makes all those moves, gets low to the ground, taunts the pitcher. He gets them mad and they think, 'I'm going to get this guy.' Then, boom—they throw the ball into the rightfield corner and now he's on second base, laughing. A slugger is nothing compared with Henderson in terms of the disruption he can cause. You take a guy who's going to hit 35 or 40 homers, and you know he's going to get you once in a while. But you can pitch to him with some success, and if he gets on base, he isn't going to bother you too much. I'd rather face anybody—Dale Murphy, Mattingly, anybody—than Henderson."
Are Henderson and Raines the wave of the future? With the possible exception of Cincinnati's Eric Davis, who Raines suggests is the next superstar, there doesn't appear to be anyone in their class.
"There's never been anyone quite like them," says Boros. "And until someone comes along and proves me wrong, I'm not sure there ever will be anyone quite like Henderson and Raines."
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