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“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.”

“SAFE!”  barks the umpire.nolan-arenado-colorado-rockies-v-atlanta-braves-xcxogxw83r0l-5385770183 (1)

“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… 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.Hammy Slide

“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…… 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.

“What was he thinking? I’m paying him to play baseball, not sit on my DL.” download zobrist

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… fingers first in order to keep their fingers from flying out and being vulnerable to the bag or the tag breakingimagescano 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:

“I don’t know man, it just feels like it is faster”  downloadhenderson

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.downloadrose

If that is the case they should go to “You Go” 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)


After all, don’t they owe it to us?

Major League Fantasy Sports Radio starts on Monday June 16th 1pm-2pm EST.

Corey D Roberts the owner of MLFS will be on Sports Palooza radio on Thursday June 5th at 2:20pm.

I'm an accountant and an amateur writer of fiction and sports commentary, mostly baseball. I've been a student of the game of baseball since the Dinosaurs roamed the earth, or at least since a few years before the world knew what a designated hitter was. Otherwise, I like "antique" cars of the 60's and 70's and have been a fantasy baseball fanatic since my first draft many years ago. I live in CT with my wife Megan of 25 years, our daughter Caitlin and their (their) cats. I'm also the better looking of the two guys in the the photo.



  1. rudytrevino31

    June 3, 2014 at 6:33 am

    I completely disagree with your view on this subject. Sliding head first is not just faster, but allows you to swing around a tag if you know how. To be honest it is not very hard. If more players looked at how the player making the tag is receiving the throw, they would know which way to swing their body to have a higher chance of reaching the base safely. Most people are just afraid to slide head first, and in return hurt themselves because they hesitate. Sliding feet first is by far more dangerous than sliding head first no matter the situation, because their are more situations where clits can catch the runner or the player standing over the base. Regardless of how long people think it takes to learn the “skill” of sliding head first, it is a simple tool that should be used more often.

    so let me bullet the points for why you’re wrong about this

    1. Just like when runners are leading off bases, they typically slide back head first because its quicker and provides a higher chance of being safe. (compared to sliding feet first or running straight up back to the bag)

    2. Provides more options as far as how to go at the base and avoid the tag.

    3. If they have a brain, they know not to slide with their fingers pointing down at the bottom of the base. But instead to, for a lack of better description, slide with their wrists touch the floor and the palm and fingers slanted up as if to grab the base instead of stabbing it.

    4. Sliding head first actually is statistically safer than sliding feet first. (have baseball savvy)

    5. No pick up games, is probably the most retarded thing I’ve ever read coming from any kind of sport related article. That’s how most people tune up their games. Practicing on your own is fine. However, if all you do all day is shoot baskets with no one guarding you, I can guarantee when someone who has any kind of defense will throw you off your game. No pick up games is like saying don’t practice.

    6. Getting hurt is part of any kind of sport. You are probably one of those people who feel the need to put more restrictions on how players hit one another in football. It is all part of the sport, getting hurt happens. if you eliminate any kind of situation that causes players to get hurt you wouldn’t have any kind of sport.

    7. I’m sure if a player was being interviewed and said; I don’t steal, lead off bases, stand two feet within home plate when I bat, don’t dive for balls, don’t jump on the fence to rob a homerun, they would never be considered. And who the hell would want to watch a player who did nothing.

    8. Let’s take contact out of football. Everyone can see that hitting in football causes 90% of the injuries, and we know how much it sucks to lose Adrian Peterson on our fantasy teams due to an injury, needless to point out the amount of money the Vikings will waste on that season. I’m being a complete ass hole to prove my point about what you’re saying in this article.

    Skip out

  2. rudytrevino31

    June 3, 2014 at 6:52 am

    pick up games are good for getting hops to rob home runs, just to clear that up


    skip out

  3. Joe Iannone

    June 3, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    First I want to thank you for reading my whole article and taking the time to comment on it. I decided to respond to you in case other people did not notice that a good amount of what I said was tongue in cheek; though I did do quite a bit of research. I found articles and statements by people who claimed head first was safer, but I could not find any data to back that up. The main point is that injury prone guys like Josh Hamilton, Jose Reyes, Ryan Zimmerman, Ben Zobrist and Rafael Furcal should do all they can to avoid injury. I don’t for a minute doubt your “baseball savvy” and I assume you may be able to prove that head first is safer. But, if Josh Hamilton has already lost parts of three seasons to injuries sustained in head first slides, including a broken arm, is it not time, perhaps, to change his approach?
    To your bullet points:
    1. I agree that a guy going back to a base should dive as he has no momentum helping him.
    2. Agree 100%
    3. Yikes. there are a lot of twisted body parts in play there.
    4. Data?
    5. Many pro contracts forbid a lot of things, including pickup basketball games. I was not stating my opinion, in fact #’s 5 through 8 have nothing to do with me or my article so I’ll “skip out” on those. You’d have been far more credible had you stopped before your comments in #5 especially.
    But, again, I appreciate the feedback.

  4. Corey D Roberts

    June 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Rudy, thanks for the banter. I think you took what Joe was saying to the extreme level. I really don’t care what numbers you cook up or how you try to splice it head first slides trying to beat out a single at first base is a train wreck waiting to happen. When I was a player I was a speed guy who would slide quite a bit. I used head first slides to get back to a base on a pick off attempt and when I was swiping 2nd or 3rd. There is an art to that for sure, but most players don’t know how to do it safely with out taking that risk of a sprained wrist, broken hand, or fingers. No one was advocating for it to be outlawed, but Joe was shedding light on a particular phenomena.

    I do agree with you when you said something about regulating all sports to tidly winks, but that was not what Joe was saying here.
    Feel free to drop off more criticism in the future.

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