Over the past week Baseball fans have been witnessing the ill-effect of what has become a standard operating procedure for many base-runners in this modern era of Major League Baseball. Injuries and near-injuries have been highlighted on Television and Stadium Screens, accurately depicting the awkwardness and inherent danger of sliding “head-first” into a base. Early on, spectators and ardent fans were privy to the disabling consequences of the meaningless antics of Dodger and Angel Stars Yasiel Puig and Josh Hamilton. Fortunately for Puig he was back in action a few days after temporary rehabilitation. But Josh Hamilton is not as fortunate. He will be out of commission from 6 to 8 weeks, just after having successfully regained his former MVP status with his League-leading Batting average.
Watching Saturday night’s game between the Angels and the Mets, even the casual observer must be wondering, after watching the slow-motion replays of specific sliding plays, why players seem to be deliberately jeopardizing their individual careers as well as their Teams’ success with such reckless disregard for their personal safety. On a play at 3rd base, the camera showed conclusively how the Angel 3rd baseman casually placed his foot as an obstacle to the bag so that the head-first sliding David Wright (Mets All-Star 3rd Baseman) would be obstructed from a clear path to the bag. Wright was not only out on the play, but he jammed his hand and fingers into the ankle of Angels’ David Freese. If Wright had slid “spikes-first,” I’m sure that Freese would have had second thoughts about placing his foot in the way of the base-runner, who would have been safe. And instead of Wright’s own career being jeopardized, it would have been Freese on the disabled list. Josh Harrison of Pirates is now lost!
(Add Mike Napoli and Bryce Harper to the list. – This isn’t Rocket-Science)
Later that same game, Baseball’s Biggest Star, Mike Trout, laced a low-liner passed the Mets short-stop into left-center field. Trout’s hustling attitude gave every indication that he was going for two bases. Running full speed after rounding first he sprinted to second and, as his custom was, he slid furiously into the base, “Head-First.” He was safe, for the outfielder’s frantic throw was far off the mark, but when he stood up he began shaking his right hand and wrist. As the instant replay showed, he slid so hard that he jammed his right wrist and hand into the bag as the momentum of his powerful body was carrying him over it. Needless to say, the Angels can ill-afford to lose their Star player, and Baseball would surely regret his brief or permanent absent from the Game.
These scenarios are no doubt being played out over the panorama of Major and Minor-League Baseball, as well as College and High-School arenas throughout the Country and elsewhere. The only half-way legitimate excuse for sliding “Head-First” is that for some unfathomable reason, a star athlete never learned how to correctly slide feet-first. Some (or perhaps All) head-first sliders might have had some traumatic experiences in Little–League, where the scrapping of their right or left sides with what were affectionately known as “razzberries” held a great reluctance to continue that regimen for securing a base. The lesser of two evils is undoubtedly a more practical approach, if its more serious consequences weren’t being considered appropriately. However, the “razzberry” situation would be alleviated if correct sliding procedure was enacted, specifically sliding on the “meaty” part of the “Butt,” rather than the “boney” part of the side of the hip.
When the expert “feet-first-slider” tucks his under-leg, his top leg stretches out toward the base, and that foot reaches for the bag while the infielder is trying to apply the tag. The adept runner can sometimes avoid the tag by placing his foot where the glove is not. The same can be said for the “Head-first-slider” who would try to feint with one hand while grabbing the base with the other. The difference being the vulnerability factor regarding possible injuries to face, neck, hands, wrists, and fingers of the “head-first” runner compared to less vulnerable aspects of the “feet-first” runner.
Major-League Baseball has rightly enacted the “Home-Plate Rule” to eliminate unnecessary contact at Home Plate. The Catcher can no longer obstruct the plate if he doesn’t have the ball. But at all other bases, no rule currently exists. Therefore, the only legitimate reason for infielders not to block the bag and secure a sure out in many situations is the code of “self-preservation” that inherently attends to itself as the base-runner is sliding in “Ty Cobb” fashion, with spikes blazing. No infielder with any common-sense is going to deliberately jeopardize life and limb and career and get in the way of a “spikes-first” runner. Thus – an integral point to help secure the careers of both the smart fielder and the “smart-runner”!
It is amazing to me that Pete Rose and Rickey Henderson were never injured. And because of that, all would-be Hendersons and Roses will continue to slide “Head-First.” You’d think that Josh Hamilton would have learned his lesson after sliding into Home Plate head-first, breaking a collar bone, and quickly dismantling another MVP season, perhaps contributing to subsequent unproductive seasons. Who knows how many more times Josh will injure himself and maybe conclude his career? I surely hope he changes his sliding technique. And let’s all hope that Mike Trout doesn’t have to learn his biggest lesson the “Hard-Way.”