While New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner constantly hustles, one thing he should stop doing is sliding into first base.
Aside from Gardner needing to steal more bases in 2017, there’s another thing he has to change: He has to stop sliding headfirst into first base.
Every once in awhile, Gardner will hit a ball in the infield, and in order to beat the pitcher to the bag, he’ll decide to slide headfirst into the bag. Sometimes it worked for Gardner, and sometimes the pitcher beat him to the bag.
While the 33-year old has the speed to try to beat out the pitcher, sliding headfirst into the bag actually defeats the purpose of winning the foot race.
When Gardner slides into the bag headfirst, he’s actually losing momentum, which means it will take him slightly longer to reach first base. If he actually runs to first, he’ll have a better chance at beating the pitcher.
Not only would sliding into first scientifically defeat the purpose, Gardner could also get hurt.
Imagine this: Gardner is at the plate against Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers and ends up chopping a pitch, Verlander grabs it. With there being a foot race to first, Gardner decides to slide but Verlander accidentally misses the bag and steps on Gardner’s wrist.
Gardner would end up missing a significant amount of time on the disabled list, and the Yankees would have to find a replacement.
Because the Yankees don’t want this scenario above to play out, Joe Girardi has pulled Gardner to the side multiple times and spoke to him on the issue.
“I’m not crazy about that,” Girardi said before the Yankees Spring Training game against the Orioles in 2013. “I know during the season it becomes instinctual. Right now you don’t want him to get his hand stepped on. I will talk to him [today]. The hard thing about it is that it’s instinctual.’’
It was up to Gardner to listen. But he hadn’t.
He continued sliding into first base because like Girardi said it’s an instinct. It’s an instinct that has played out multiple times since Girardi’s interview in 2013. Gardner isn’t heeding the message, which could end up being a dangerous thing for all parties involved.
It’s not a terrible thing Gardner always gives 110 percent. In fact, it’s encouraged. I just want to see Gardner being smarter when it comes to reaching first base.