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The Headfirst Slide and Mike Trout’s All-but-Inevitable Injury

May 30th, 2017 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball

Mike Trout played 857 games in the major leagues without visiting the disabled list.

Of course, as long as he continued to use the headfirst slide as his preferred means of getting to a base in a hurry … it was nearly inevitable he would hurt some key part of his body.

The headfirst slide puts at risk all sorts of fragile body parts that are particularly crucial in baseball — fingers, hands, shoulders, faces.

Trout? His headfirst slide at second base on Sunday — hey, he was safe on a steal!  — yielded a ruptured ligament in his left thumb, an injury to be addressed via surgery tomorrow and to be followed by “six to eight weeks” on the shelf. Which is pretty much a death blow to a team as weak as are the 2017 Angels.

The big question is … why is anyone still using the headfirst slide?

Why, especially, is the best player in baseball risking his career by using it?

That the headfirst slide does not get a guy to a base faster than other means, such as the feet-first slide, has been assumed for years by baseball people.

Whenever baseball teams are asked about the headfirst dive, they invariably say something along the lines of “we don’t coach it and we don’t want our players doing it.” They also do not try very hard to stop it.

A rash of injuries six years ago from the headfirst slide prompted a discussion inside the game about the dangers of it.

Yet, there go the game’s top players, still throwing their face at a bag or home plate, racking up scores of injuries.

Here is one of several stories to be found about the folly of sliding with your face and fingers forward, plus a sampling of the guys who have been hurt doing it.

The Angels must have been on pins and needles throughout Trout’s career, which has been at risk all along because of his preference for the headfirst slide. “A matter of time” had to be the thought process.

Opponents have not been able to slow down Mike Trout, 25, who has put together the greatest start to a career in baseball history. A career now on hold for six-to-eight weeks. In the middle of what was shaping up as his greatest season yet.

Ballplayers seem to believe that aggressive players, the guys who play hard, use the headfirst slide. Maybe it’s about the idea that it gives more ways to touch a bag. Maybe they think it looks cool.

But it is nearly a sure-fire way to get a major injury.

The Angels should consider asking — actually, demanding — that Mike Trout not go into a base headfirst. Maybe make it a condition of his contract. Negotiate it. “OK, we’ve agreed on money … now we will give you more money if you promise not to slide headfirst.”

Also, the Angels could suggest that he give up trying to steal bases. He was stealing second when he got hurt, a marginal advantage earned at the risk of missing two months with an injury. The club’s best hitter, their best defender, their top attraction, out — because of a bad base-running decision.

It is frustrating to the nth degree.

It has taken most of six years, but the Angels have found out what can stop Mike Trout. The headfirst slide.


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