I stumbled into a long conversation with Davey Lopes about baserunning on Friday (it’s not hard to do). Specifically, we talked about Nick Punto’s head-first dives into first base, which had morphed from a novelty into a regular occurrence –it happened three times in one game earlier this month, and twice more on Wednesday.
That was the lead subject of yesterday’s Dodgers notebook. Here’s more from Lopes:
“I don’t care what any doctor, any expert, says. More guys get hurt sliding headfirst than they do feet-first,” he said. “But if you’re not used to doing it, to change somebody into something else, you’re increasing their chance of getting hurt because they’re trying to do something they’re not accustomed to doing. It’s a habit.”
Punto doesn’t believe that diving into first base slows him down. “I don’t like watching people slide headfirst into first base, because that’s definitely slower if you’re sliding,” he said. “I’m diving to the base and propelling over it. I know it’s slower if you slide but I dive.”
Lopes didn’t quibble with that bit of semantics, but neither he nor anyone has actually timed Punto running from home to first under both conditions –running through the base, and diving head first.
He will slide foot-first on occasion, such as when he’s going into home plate with a catcher in the same vicinity. Here’s what Lopes had to say about that:
“The craziest damn thing is when they slide at home plate head-first. In my era you wouldn’t do that. You’d come out with no fingers. You do that against Mike Scioscia or something like that, you’re not going to be playing the next day more than likely.
“Rickey Henderson, he didn’t do it much into first but second or third, he was going headfirst. Nothing bothered him when he it the ground. To what he did, as long as he did, and not come out with an injury, is a rarity.”