Despite the fact that management and coaches have been telling players for decades NOT to slide head first into first base, some players continue to do it. While most know better, when caught up in the heat of the battle, the competitive juices start to flow and players will do anything to reach base safely.
While Michael said he has no regrets about his decision to slide into first, management might see it a little differently. At the time of his injury, Bourn was Cleveland’s most productive player; hitting .333 with 4 doubles, a triple, 2 homers and a .375 on-base percentage. The Indians will be hard pressed to find a suitable replacement for him while he is on the DL and are out about $43,000.00 per day in DL salary.Darryl Royal, former head football coach at The University of Texas, said “There are three things that can happen when you pass the football, and two of them are bad.” The same can be said of sliding head first into first base. You can be safe, you can be out or you can be injured. Sometimes two things can happen at once. Worst case, you are out and injured on the same play. Slightly less worst case, like Michael Bourn, you are safe and injured. On April 14, 2013, Bourn, who usually slides feet first when stealing a base, slid head first into first base to beat the throw from Adam Dunn to Matt Thornton. He was safe, but had to leave the game and have five stitches placed in his right index finger when Thornton stepped on his hand.
While manager, Terry Francona has not said so publicly, he might be thinking something similar to what Larry Dierker said after watching Richard Hidalgo separate his shoulder running into the outfield wall – “As a manager, it is nice to know that you have a player who will run through a wall for you; however, it is better to know that you have one who has enough sense to stop so that he can play tomorrow.”
There is another important reason NOT to slide into first, it slows you down. That’s right, it takes longer to reach first when you slide than when you run through the base. Scientists say that sliding creates friction which reduces speed, increases the risk of injury and prolongs the time it takes to reach first. If you don’t believe the science, believe the numbers. I have times on Michael on over 600 runs from home to first base. The average of his best times on bang-bang plays is 3.94 seconds. Average time when he slid into first is 4.02 seconds, about 2% slower.
Gene Coleman, Ed. D., CSCS*R-E, FACSM