As you can tell, we’re big fans of home runs here at MLB Daily Dingers. But we do understand that there’s more to life than hitting a home run (sometimes). You know, like when you combine all those dingers with a bunch of stolen bases. That power-speed combination has been coveted for as long as we can remember. It’s also rare when looking at the players who have best combined those two talents during the same season. Which players are actually in the MLB 40-40 club? There are only four members, and they’re all highlighted below.
MLB 40-40 Club: Every Time It’s Ever Happened
Jose Canseco, Oakland Athletics
1988: 42 home runs, 40 stolen bases
The 1988 season served as a certified breakout season for Oakland Athletics outfielder Jose Canseco. He did enjoy consecutive seasons of 30-plus homers for the A’s in ’86 and ’87, but his overall performance wasn’t at the same level when looking at what he did in ’88. It also helped propel him to being within the top five of Oakland’s all-time home run leaders.
Canseco posted a .775 OPS, 115 wRC+, and 2.9 fWAR in 1986, and followed that with a .780 OPS, 106 wRC+, and 1.9 fWAR the following year before improving those numbers to .959, 169, and 7.6 for a truly memorable performance. As if that wasn’t enough, he’ll also always have the honor of being the first player in MLB history to register at least 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a single season.
Just looking at some of these splits is crazy, too. Through Canseco’s first 345 career games, he slugged 69 homers and stole 31 bases. Then, it took him just another 159 games played to slug 40 dingers and swipe 40 bags. He was also mostly consistent on both ends – Canseco stole fewer than six bases in just one month (four in June) and hit fewer than eight homers in a month twice (4 each in May and August).
Not shockingly, Canseco’s performance earned himself an All-Star selection, a Silver Slugger Award, and two seasons after winning the AL Rookie of the Year honors, he took home the AL MVP. Throughout the rest of his career – which spanned a total of 17 seasons – Canseco only stole more than 20 bases in a single year two other times (26 in 1991 and 29 in 1998).
Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants
1996: 42 home runs, 40 stolen bases
It seems like there aren’t going to be many of these lists that don’t include Barry Bonds, which makes a lot of sense. PED suspicion or not, hitting 762 career homers will land you in plenty of exclusive clubs. Not only has he hit the most home runs all time, but he’s obviously the current single-season home run king for MLB, as well as the Giants. Unlike Canseco, Bonds had spent most of his early career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Giants showing off his unique ability to hit a bunch of homers and collect tons of stolen bases.
After all, there’s a reason why he’s the only member of the 500-homer, 500-steal club. In the 10 years prior to Bonds’ 1996 campaign, he registered nine years of at least 29 steals, which included a 52-steal performance in 1990 and 43 more the following year in 1991. Coincidentally enough, he never led the league in this category, which goes to show you how tough it was to be an above-average base stealer while Rickey Henderson was also an active player.
The homer and steal numbers were hardly the only impressive parts of Bonds’ season. The 9.2 fWAR he produced was the fourth time he got himself over the 9.0 plateau. He also slashed .308/.461/.615 through 675 plate appearances, which the outfielder paired with a ridiculous 22.4% walk rate and 11.3% strikeout rate. That’s what Bonds typically did, though – by the end of his career, he owned a career walk rate of 20.3% and a career strikeout rate of 12.2%.
Bonds won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger for his incredible 1996 season, but he somehow only finished fifth in NL MVP voting. The four who finished in front of him included Ken Caminiti, Mike Piazza, Ellis Burks, and Chipper Jones. It’s OK, though – he had already won three MVPs at that point and would win four more before hanging up his spikes for good.
Be sure to also check out milestone Barry Bonds home runs through the years while you’re here.
Alex Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners
1998: 42 home runs, 46 stolen bases
Yes, Alex Rodriguez was the third member of the 40-40 club, but he distinguished himself by being the first infielder to accomplish the feat (which is still the case today). While he was a rather consistent base stealer throughout the first 10-15 years of his big-league career, the 1998 season was the only time he registered more than 30 steals (he did have five years of 20-plus steals, though).
On the power side of the equation, this was the start of an incredible surge from the infielder for the foreseeable future. It was his first campaign of 40-plus homers, a benchmark he’d reach for six straight years between 1998 and 2003 with the Mariners and Texas Rangers.
It’s interesting to see in this instance that A-Rod did most of his damage on the road instead of at home in front of Mariners fans at the Kingdome. He accumulated nearly the exact number of plate appearances at home (372) as he did on the road (376). However, Rodriguez slashed .286/.332/.484 with 18 homers, 54 RBI, 52 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases at home. Those numbers improved dramatically to .335/.387/.636 with 24 homers, 70 RBI, 71 runs scored, and 25 stolen bases as a visiting player.
Alfonso Soriano, Washington Nationals
2006: 46 home runs, 41 stolen bases
Between 2002 and 2005, Alfonso Soriano flirted with joining the 40-40 club quite consistently before finally having success in 2006 with the Nationals. He made the wait worthwhile by putting up the most homers in a 40-40 season thus far. That number is also Washington’s single-season team record – Soriano made his lone season in the nation’s capital a memorable one, that’s for sure.
Speaking of these close calls, the closest one came in 2002 with the New York Yankees, when he finished third in AL MVP voting. He led the league in runs scored (128), hits (209), and stolen bases (41) while slugging 39 dingers. The following year in 2003 was also a close call, as Soriano slugged 38 homers while swiping 35 bases. It wasn’t as close in 2005, but he still logged another 30-30 season with 36 homers and 30 steals in Texas with the Rangers.
I guess the fourth try was the charm in this instance, but my goodness did he tear things up along the way while he was trying to get there. When looking at his 2006 season a little closer, he did the heavy lifting in each of these categories at opposite times. Prior to the All-Star break (403 plate appearances and 89 games played), he slugged 27 homers with 20 steals. After the All-Star break (325 plate appearances and 70 games played), he hit 19 homers and stole 21 bases.
Before signing a huge contract to join the Chicago Cubs, Soriano’s historic performance landed him just sixth in NL MVP voting. The five ahead of him included Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltrán, and Miguel Cabrera.
MLB 40-40 Club: Who Could Be Next?
There have been plenty of players to post a season of 30-plus homers and 30-plus steals since Soriano finally cracked the 40/40 club in 2006. Who could be the next to get it done and join him? My bet is on Ronald Acuña Jr. Even though he’s already had a serious leg injury, he’s young, very talented, and had a close call earlier in his career.