Is there a safer way to slide?

Sunday was not the first time Andrelton Simmons has arrived on-base head first. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Sunday was not the first time Andrelton Simmons has arrived on-base head first. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Braves rookie Andrelton Simmons fractured the fifth metacarpal on his right hand Sunday against the Phillies making a head-first slide into second base. Simmons could miss up to six weeks.

Braves' center fielder Michael Bourn could not beat the tag of the Phillies' Ryan Howard. (AP)

Braves' center fielder Michael Bourn could not beat the tag of the Phillies' Ryan Howard. (AP)

Simmons is not the first player hurt this season making a head-first slide. (The Nats’ Roger Bernadina agonized after a head-first dive against the Blue Jays earlier this season.) And Simmons is not the only Brave to approach a base head-first. (Leadoff hitter Michael Bourn often dives in attempting to beat a high throw to first.)

But it does beg the question of whether players are taking an unnecessary risk. Do players lose an edge by sliding feet first? Of course, there are those who will argue that sliding feet-first puts the defensive player at risk. Hall of Famer Ty Cobb made sure of that sliding spikes-up into second base.

What’s your take? Feet or head? Or does it really matter, injuries could happen regardless?

13 comments Add your comment

interested observer

July 9th, 2012
11:30 am

Sliding into first actually slows the runner down and should be done only to avoid a tag. In this case, Simmons would have reached the bag sooner (and more safely) by continuing to run instead of diving headfirst. Going to first is a race between batter and the ball, and a slide is counterproductive unless the throw is wide to the home side and the runner needs to slide to avoid the tag from a first baseman (or pitcher) drawn off the bag by a wide throw.

Jon

July 9th, 2012
11:37 am

I’m glad you interestedly observed, but he slide into second, not first, so you observed the wrong thing.

Boom Roasted

July 9th, 2012
1:49 pm

@Jon Well played

MyPatootie

July 9th, 2012
4:10 pm

If I were a manager, I would lay down the law. NO HEAD FIRST SLIDES ANYWHERE, PERIOD! Some say you can still get hurt even sliding feet first, and that’s true, but the percentage of injuries is much lower because the majority do slide feet first. I would much rather one of my players risk getting a leg or foot injury than a head, arm, or hand injury. Besides a fielder or catcher would much rather see a runner coming in head first than feet first. They are more apt to be injured than the runner in those cases. I know in Little League head first slides are forbidden. They are smart to do that!

Hillbilly D

July 9th, 2012
4:26 pm

In addition to the risk of injury, a runner who slides in feet first, is able to pop up quicker, in case a ball gets away. So if you slide feet first into second on a stolen base attempt, for example, and the throw goes into center field, you can be up and on your way to third, quicker. Sometimes it’s the difference in going on to third or staying at second.

jason

July 10th, 2012
1:26 am

Dee Gordon and bonifacio had major injuries sliding head first.

P B Orr

July 10th, 2012
8:47 am

1) “Beg the question” does not mean “imply” or “suggest”. It refers to a logical fallacy of proving a proposition by tacitly assuming it is already so.

2) Yes, foot-first slides are not only safer, they are more likely to be successful. Maury Wills always used his feet. Done right, the fielder has fewer targets of tagging opportunity. One can also slide faster and stop his momentum by hooking the bag.

I think it was Ricky Henderson who patented head-first sliding. This was more of a fashion statement than a stratagem. But baseball is now overwhelmed with fashion statements (power ropes, batting gloves, arm bands, stupid beards and sideburns…) so head-first sliding remains popular.

I think the kids must not be taught to slide so they do what they see others do. In my little league, we actually had sliding practice.

Tag

July 10th, 2012
10:29 am

It’s baseball.

Everyone knows you can get a concussion in football, how many players are quitting?

tantor

July 10th, 2012
11:48 am

As a baserunner, I always felt you could be more precise about where you go for the base, and you could modify your trajectory based on where the throw arrives and the position of the defender. Also there was less “target” for the defender to apply the tag. On a bang-bang play, if the defender has to hunt for where your hand is, that may give the runner a split-second advantage.. but there are certainly pros and cons, as have been pointed out. We are sure going to miss our new shortstop!! which right now is a major reason not to slide head first…

tantor

July 10th, 2012
11:57 am

p.s. headfirst slides provide a smaller “target” and you can be very precise about where you grab the bag. PB Orr makes a good case for feet first, especially sliding faster and or course major leaguers are amazingly precise sliding. I always loved the “hook slide” slipping under the catcher’s mitt, dragging the trailing leg at full speed- the true moving target.

subbie_333

July 11th, 2012
4:40 pm

@Jon and @Boom Roasted
“interested observer” may have been confused as the first pic in the article does not show the play in which Simmons was injured. Bad editing on the part of the AJC.

One arguement against the headfirst slide is that if it actually got you there quicker, then, track athletes would dive at the finish line. But, as the recent dead heat between two female track sprinters reminds us, it is your torso and not your arms that determine when you cross the finish line. So, the argument can be made that headfirst gets you there faster than the torso. But, does it get you there faster than your foot?

Personally I am tired of seeing people like Heyward getting hurt with a headfirst slide and their injury lasting too long. I would rather see them slide feet first and get tagged out a few more times as opposed to them getting hurt (maybe once a year nowadays) and not being productive for two or three months.

way downsouth

July 12th, 2012
10:31 am

diving into first is dumb in most instances. you’ll notice some players, after reaching base, take off their batting gloves and hold one in each hand, so that their fingers won’t get gimped up if they do slide head first. go in spikes first, and let them worry about it.

Cal Ripken was mean as hell out there, and would land on runners while turning that awesome DP. makes the runner worry about it everytime you come to second on a close play, and that split soecond of ohh shiiite just might get you out. same theory as throwing high & tight to a batter, it makes him think about getting beaned.

keith

July 12th, 2012
12:56 pm

NEVER SLIDE INTO FIRST BASE. PERIOD. SINCE YOU CAN OVERRUN THE BASE, SLIDING ACTUALLY SLOWS YOU DOWN.

As Joe Morgan (who played with the likes of Johnny Bench and Davey Concepcion on the Big Red Machine in the 1970s) would say “that’s what you’re taught in little league”.

I didn’t see the play, and I know a commenter above said it was a slide to 2nd base. Maybe it was. But either way, the picture above is of a slide into first.