January 9, 2014
The Year's 10 Best Slides: A Slide Show (Again)
Last year, obsessed with the possibilities of a pretty simple pun, I wrote about my 10 favorite slides. There were those who said we'd never try it again. Well guess what.
10. Punto Slides
And now here is Nick Punto on that very same play:
There has never been a truer expression of Nick Punto’s career, or life, than this play. Diving into first base is always unnecessary (yes, I see your hand in the back Omar Vizquel), but Punto loves to do it so much that he does it even when it is unnecessarily unnecessary. And yet, as I read Nick Punto’s Wikipedia page, there is no mention of the incredibly telling detail that he once slid into first base on a ball that went through to center field. Instead, we get nonsense like this:
But I get it. Wikipedia is a huge online repository of information. Maybe they don’t mention Punto’s headfirst slide into first base on a ball that reached the outfield on this particular page, but surely somewhere else? Nope. I read literally every page of Wikipedia looking for it, and it’s just not there. Instead, Wikipedia’s editors felt that a 2,400 words were necessary on the topic of toilet-related injuries and deaths, including more than 20 fictional toilet-related injuries and deaths, including a number that hardly qualify as toilet-related injuries or deaths at all:
And nothing about Punto's slide into first. Just missing the point completely, the whole lot of us.
Hey, here’s one more for the Punto files:
That came on the most routine two-out, inning-ending fielder’s choice you’ll ever see. It was also an exhibition game (though, at least, a WBC game—they were keeping score and all).
Back during some political event, Slate ran a piece comparing the candidates to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and concluding that Bugs Bunny always wins. This is actually relevant to many fields, starting with who gets popular in grade school and who doesn’t. Here are the key definitions:
Bugs and Daffy represent polar opposites in how to deal with the world. Bugs is at ease, laid back, secure, confident. His lidded eyes and sly smile suggest a sense that he knows the way things work. He's onto the cons of his adversaries. Sometimes he is glimpsed with his elbow on the fireplace mantel of his remarkably well-appointed lair, clad in a smoking jacket. (Jones once said Cary Grant was his inspiration for Bugs. Today it would be George Clooney.) Bugs never raises his voice, never flails at his opponents or at the world. He is rarely an aggressor. When he is pushed too far and must respond, he borrows a quip from Groucho Marx: "Of course, you realize this means war." And then, whether his foe is hapless hunter Elmer Fudd, varmint-shooting Yosemite Sam, or a raging bull, Bugs always prevails.
Punto is clearly a Daffy Duck, and Cano is clearly a Bugs Bunny, in baseball’s ecosystem. Look at the disdain in Bugs’ posture when Daffy, unrestrained, disturbs his controlled, superior environment. Major-league baseball is, indeed, mostly Bugs Bunnies, the Bugs Bunnies from a thousand different Little Leagues all brought together to be Bugs Bunnies for all of our entertainment. Then a Daffy comes tumbling into the picture, and looks like a fool out there. You gotta respect that. Most of us don’t have the ability to be Bugs Bunny, so we’re Daffy Ducks, but we don’t have the guts to really embrace that fact like Punto does.
9. The Microcosm Slide
It took him 34 seconds to get up from this slide. Seriously, look at this picture and tell me what event you figure preceded it: A) Puig makes routine slide on non-close play at third, or B) Puig insults Ralphie Cifaretto in front of everybody at the Bing:
You gotta feel for the Dodgers. Puig is their most valuable commodity at this point, and he’s basically the entire college fund invested in Dogecoin. It’s not that he engages in reckless behavior. He engages in banal behavior recklessly. Remember when he was pulled over going 110 this winter? He was just trying to parallel park and it got away from him. “Awww, geeeeeeez, Yasiel, brushing your teeth again,” the Dodgers murmur when he shows up in the trainer’s office with the last knuckle of a toothbrush protruding out of his orbital socket.
On the very first Now That’s What I Call Music (USA) compilation series, the 14th track was by Radiohead. Also on that album: Aqua, Backstreet Boys, K-Ci & JoJo, Tonic. I don’t know what Radiohead and K-Ci & JoJo could possibly have in common, but the evidence suggests it was something, because that album was a total hit. And now there are 49 in the series, plus seven Christmas compilations, 11 country, four “Latino,” and Now That’s What I Call Music Disney, Classic Rock, Faith, Love Hits, Party Hits, Off The Hook, and so on.
I’m not sure what these two slides have in common, either, other than the interesting part of each happens after the slide. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. That, and a Draw Me Like One Of Your French Girls joke that Mike Axisa beat me to.
7. Peltzman Slides
So you can admire that, on its own terms. But what puts it here is this: Watch what happens to Brandon Phillips after his butt gets face-mashed. He just… disappears. Villar slides in so hard (with his face, into a butt) that he basically knocks Brandon Phillips right off the face of the earth. That’s why the theme here is not players sliding into butts, but players sliding soo hard. The Villar slide, more than anything, is about a player who dove into second base with the momentum of a runaway freight train; why are these so popular?
For years we’ve been hearing that player health was going to be the next big thing in sabermetrics (or in baseball analysis, however you want to label it). Modern medicine is certainly improving, independently of (but to the benefit of) major-league baseball. And yet players keep getting hurt. More than ever, by some measures. How can this be?
Maybe it’s the Peltzman Effect, also called risk compensation, and defined thusly: “The adjustment of individual behaviour in response to perceived changes in risk. People tend to behave more cautiously if their perception of risk or danger increases, and less cautiously when they feel 'safer' or more protected.” This shows up all over the place: Drivers, when wearing seatbelts, drive in a less safe manner; drivers, seeing a bicyclist wearing a helmet, give the rider less clearance when passing him; skiers wearing helmets go faster and get injured more than unhelmeted skiers; etc. Baseball is better at getting players back on the field than it ever were before. But look at how hard these guys play now.
Watching slide after slide for this, I came away convinced they’re sliding harder,
more out of control,
and more into contact
6. Houdini Slides, By Non-Athletes
At full sprint, he slides, subtly shifts the direction of his slide once it has already begun, supports his 200-plus pounds of weight with his weaker arm, and retains the posture required to dodge the tag with his right arm and slap the plate in the tiny window available to him. And, for good measure, pops up onto his feet immediately. He not only tags the base you were defending, he was running 25 feet away from you before you even got off your elbow. Laugh at Molina for being slow. You have no shame. You’re the worst.
5. Houdini Slides, By Athletes
Some fielder should try this, because the current strategy—leaving the base exposed and letting the runner dip dodge duck dive and dodge—has some weaknesses.
4. Slides As Skill
It’s Justin Morneau! There were roughly three of these plays all season (so far as I could tell by scouring MLB.com highlights), where the runner went past the plate but managed to double back and tag home before the catcher tagged him. Two were Justin Morneau. You just never know what God made special about you.
3. Prince Fielder Slides
Search: Prince Fielder sliding
Search: Prince Fielder diving
Search: Prince Fielder collision
Search: Prince Fielder falling
Search: Prince Fielder collapsing
Search: Prince Fielder rolling
Search: Prince Fielder tumbling
Gah that kills me. Here’s another angle, and just remember what you saw above: What you’re about to see is not a trip. This is his honest effort at locomoting himself toward a bag.
2. Faceful of Dirt Slides
1. Awkward Slides
(The answer is: the umpire’s camouflage hat.)