It’s a stupid play. It’s universally accepted within the baseball community that players should run through first base and not slide into it.
So why does Nick Punto keep sliding?
Maybe it’s harder for me to stomach when the perpetrator is a .220 hitter who recently signed a two-year contract extension to play the infield for the Minnesota Twins.
Punto has slid head-first into first base on back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. And when you’re team loses by one run like on Saturday, and a guy gets called out on a head-first slide on a really close play in the game, how is he not benched for it?
Here’s some of the many reasons why sliding into first base is foolish:
- Sliding as opposed to running through first base slows a player down.
- Umpires are not going to give a baserunner the benefit of the doubt when they’re not playing the game the right way.
- It leaves you susceptible to injury when you make a habit of sliding head-first. I remember earlier this decade David Ortiz - then with the Twins – sliding head-first into home plate at Kaufmann Stadium and injuring his hand. There are times when sliding head-first is necessary, but don’t do it when it’s not needed. The Houston Astros ban sliding head-first into first base and home plate in their minor leagues because of the injury risk.
Delmon Young reportedly plays the game his way and is chastised by his manager for it. Carlos Gomez, too. And they both deserve to be.
But I just don’t understand why everyone – from broadcasters to the team’s management – seems to turn a blind eye toward Punto costing the team outs. If he runs through that bag on Saturday and is called safe, maybe the Twins find a way to score another run or two and win the game. Who knows?
Am I to just shrug my shoulders and say, "Well, he’s a gritty player."?