“65 Mustangs” Stop giving us the FINGER!! Should baseball players stop sliding head (FINGERS) first?
Any Fantasy Baseball owner who plays in a league of 12 teams or more knows that he cannot possibly draft a top 10 player at every position. I pride myself on having a good plan B at every position not knowing how any given draft will flow. This season Nolan Arenado was my Plan B at 3b and I ended up with him on many teams. It was exciting when most of my teams got off to slow starts offensively that Mr. Arenado carried those teams through mid May. Aside from a good average and a lot of RBI’s he was among the league leaders in doubles on Saturday, May 23, 2014; and also leading the voting for the NL All Star Team at 3b. That night started much like the nights of the prior 6 weeks:
“Arenado hits a shot just off the foul line and it could go for extra bases. Arenado rounds first and is heading to second. Here comes the throw and it is going to be close! Arenado slides head first and the tag comes in………… too late.”
“Another double for Nolan Arenado. Wait a minute, he is holding his hand and appears to be in pain. Here come the trainers and the manager. A pinch runner comes in and Arenado is heading for the trainers room clutching his hand.”
Mr Arenado slid fingers first into 2nd base and broke one of those digits when it jammed into the 2nd base bag. X-Rays confirmed a clean break, so he won’t need surgery, but a best case scenario has him returning in 6 weeks, probably too late to take 3rd in the All Star Game that he may be voted into. But worse than that, I have to use guys like Luis Valbuena & Brock Holt at 3b until he comes back and then worry that the good mojo he found in April/May of 2014 comes back along with him. Before he dove fingers first into that bag, shouldn’t he have thought about me and my fantasy teams? Doesn’t he owe it to me to stay on the field and in the lineup?
Ditto Josh Hamilton. I was not buying that he was in decline after a woeful 2013 season made him drop several rounds in drafts. I scooped him up in a few leagues as late as the 6th round and he did not disappoint, slashing .444/.545/.741 in the first week or so of the season. Then, on April 8th in the 7th inning of a close game, Josh hit a slow grounder to the left side. In his desperation to beat the throw and keep the Halos in the game he dove head…..er fingers first into FIRST BASE of all places. I honestly don’t remember if he was safe or out, and I didn’t really care at the time. All that mattered to me was that he had a complete tear of his Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his left thumb and needed surgery which would keep him out 6-8 weeks. Not only do I have to cover his spot with the likes of David Murphy for half a season, but now I have to worry about what they give him for pain after surgery. It is hardly his first time either. In 2011 he missed 40 games after fracturing his upper arm in a diving slide at home plate.
“JOSH!! You are injury prone as it is and have enough other problems. What the HELL are you doing diving into first base on a routine grounder?? You are lucky to even be in the major leagues at all. Embrace that and take better care of yourself. Besides, the Stangs need your bat in the lineup.”
There are many more, but the last one I’ll talk about is Ben Zobrist. We have a guy trying to stretch a single into a double, a guy diving into first base, and now we have the most common finger slamming injury, the stolen base. Ben was my “Jack of All Trades” in a Head to Head league of mine. With a guy like him it was fairly easy to find ways to get all my guys in the lineup as he could be plugged in almost anywhere. Where I didn’t expect to plug him in was the disabled list. On May 14th, Ben was off to a good start, hitting .260 with 3 HR, 9 RBI, and was a league leader with 24 runs scored. Maybe he was feeling pressure from some of us Fantasy Owners to steal more bases as he only had 3. On May 14th, he took off for 2nd on a stolen base attempt and thinking he’d get there faster he dove head……..er fingers first into 2nd. Luckily for me and the Rays he merely dislocated his left thumb, and would only miss 2 weeks. But, that scuttled a trade I could have made netting Adrian Gonzalez for my Arenado and Hamilton less power challenged team.
No, I’m not delusional. I realize that I’m not paying Mr Zobrist, the Rays are. I realize that Hammy was really hustling his ass off that day as was Arenado. None of these guys know me, so it is unlikely that my needs flashed before their eyes as they dove, but can’t we do something about it? I remember in Little League, day one was to learn to catch with two hands. Day two we learned to slide feet first into bases. Not because it is faster, but because it is safer. Ankles, feet and legs are quite a bit more solid and durable than a thin set of little fingers and thumbs reaching for a bag. Jose Reyes got hurt sliding into second this season feet first. He sprained his ankle pretty badly and missed a month, so I’m not saying it is 100% safer. Although, Jose Reyes could probably sprain an ankle and pull a hammy just watching the Olympic Relay Races on TV from his couch.
As a Yankee fan i often wondered why Robbie Cano and others would be standing there at first base holding their batting gloves in their hands but not wearing them. I was amazed to find out that they clutch their gloves when they slide head…..er fingers first in order to keep their fingers from flying out and being vulnerable to the bag or the tag breaking them. Why not just slide feet first then and solve the whole problem? The theory is that sliding head first is faster than sliding feet first as far as getting to the bag. Rickey Henderson, a man who stole a base or two in his day was once asked how he knew he got there faster going in head first. His answer:
So, there we have psychological evidence that it is faster because it feels faster. Maybe Ricky thinks he is getting there faster because his head is getting there faster instead of his butt. To me that sounds like an ostrich thinking no one sees him when his head is in the sand. So, there must be a better way to find out. I mean why slide head first if it really is not any faster? I made a huge mistake in college going for Accounting. Had I gone for Physics, or Engineering, I could have been paid to do mass, force and velocity equations on actual major leaguers to measure if there really is a difference between Head First/Feet First Sliding. What a gig, no? A 2008 scientific study was conducted by David Peters, PhD, a McDonnell Douglas professor of Engineering & Physics at the University of Washington in St. Louis. While some other tests and studies have been conducted, Dr Peter’s is considered to be the most comprehensive study to date. He measured the slides of several college players in 16 different types of slides and had them do 20 slides of each. That is not a huge sample size but is still the most thorough such study done to date. It should be no surprise that Dr. Peters is a huge baseball fan. He measured Momentum (Mass of player’s body times speed), Angular Momentum (Mass movement of inertia times rotational rate), and Newton’s Law (Force = Mass times acceleration times inertia times angular acceleration). Ok, so maybe I should stick to Accounting.
After all that, Dr. Peters conclusion was that sliding head first is indeed faster if done correctly. The difference – .02 seconds, or 3.67 seconds to slide feet first vs 3.65 seconds to slide head first. He said the reason for this is that a person’s center of gravity is just below the waist, and sliding feet first causes that center of gravity to come in slower. But that is only if the head first slider does it correctly. He must “fly through the air”, as a premature landing results in the center of gravity landing too soon, loss of momentum, and a bruised shoulder or getting your breath knocked out. Is .02 seconds a lot, or enough to risk the extra injuries? Depending on the player it could be as much as 5 inches according to Dr Peters. Anyone who has watched an instant replay of a tag at 2nd or 3rd base knows that 5 inches could be quite a lot in determining safe or out. But, in this writer’s opinion that is not enough to risk missing 2-8 weeks from the Mustang’s fantasy roster. What? Isn’t that all that matters?
It is no surprise that the head first slide is on the rise. Davey Lopes remembers when the only players who slid head first were Ricky Henderson, Pete Rose, Tim Raines and Roberto Alomar. That is a lot of stolen bases and runs right there. According to a University of Kentucky study in 2003 68% of college players thought sliding head first was faster, but only 26% of them employed that technique while 90% thought feet first was safer. Five years later, Dr Peters found that 50% were sliding head first. MLB.Com conducted interviews of players and coaches in 2011 which was an especially bad year for the fingers first sliders. In the first week of the season, reigning MVP Josh Hamilton slid head first into home plate, but neither the plate nor the catcher budged and Hammy broke his upper arm and missed 4 to 6 weeks. 2011 also saw the likes of Rafael Furcal (There is a guy who should not be taking risks) breaking a thumb stealing 3rd, Yunel Escobar sustaining a concussion on a triple (talk about head first) and Ryan Zimmerman sustaining an ab strain. Ryan Zimmerman was hurt in 2014 diving back to 2nd base on a pick off attempt. I think I’m starting to see a pattern here. Maybe injury prone players are more apt to get hurt doing pretty much anything, let alone sliding head first. Or maybe they are injury prone because they take these risks or don’t perform them correctly.
If that is the case they should go to “You Go Pro.com” where there is a tutorial for Little League and Scholastic athletes to learn the technique correctly. It may be too late for the major leaguers though. In the MLB.Com interviews many coaches such as Davey Lopes, Buck Showalter, Ned Yost and Joe Girardi all had similar responses. While they admit they discourage players from using the head first slide because it is dangerous and not faster enough to risk, they also agree that it is hard to change a player’s instinctual habits at that stage. They all agreed that Spring Training was not the time to re-learn something as big as a slide and that it takes 20 days to convert a player over to the feet first slide. They did not suggest when it might be a good time to do it. I have an idea. What about during the 2-8 weeks the players are on the disabled list healing their little fingers. If they slide during that time it will have to be on their butts instead of using those same centers of gravity to propel them.
The bottom line is that we should not have to lose our fantasy players to avoidable injuries, and according to Chipper Jones, they are avoidable. He says sliding head first is like playing Russian Roulette and completely avoidable. I’m thinking it is time to add clauses in players contracts to protect our fantasy interests. MLB teams have clauses forbidding players to play in pick up basketball games, surf, hang glide, etc. Why not add a clause forbidding sliding head first. The potential loss of income may be enough to change their minds. Here is a sample of a contract with such clauses. We’ll use the repeat offender Josh Hamilton as an example.
1. No pick up basketball games.
2. No PED’s
3. No use of narcotics (well, surely that is already in there)
4. NO SLIDING HEAD FIRST INTO HOME PLATE OR ANY BASE.
After all, don’t they owe it to us?
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