As if the Cubs‘ dreadful September wasn’t bad enough, Kris Bryant suffered an ankle injury while trying to beat a double-play relay in the third inning of Sunday’s defeat.
The likely cause of this injury was the fact that it was raining steadily throughout the game and that first base was wet. If you pause the video at 0:06 you can see the precise moment where KB’s right foot slipped.
I thought this reminded me of a similar injury to Bryce Harper two years ago. The circumstances were close — a game was being played in wet conditions and Harper slipped on first base and messed up his knee. Here’s what happened to Harper. [VIDEO]
I wrote about this at the time, primarily to note that the game in question probably shouldn’t have even been played, given that it had been delayed several hours, the teams had a doubleheader the next day, and the game had zero impact on the postseason.
Sunday’s game at Wrigley Field had far different circumstances, an important matchup between two contending teams and I understand why they had to play it in a steady light rain. Many teams, including the Cubs, have done this before under similar conditions, and I get it.
In my 2017 article, I linked to this ESPN.com article by Buster Olney in which he wrote:
A question that would be worthwhile for Major League Baseball and the union to explore: In this time of advanced technology, could there be a better and safer composition to the bases -- particularly at first base?
It’s a question as simple and as natural as whether there’s a better face mask for catchers, or a better batting helmet for hitters.
Some coaches have noted in recent years that the bases are more rigid than they used to be. Some teams will swap out bases during the course of game action and sell the old ones as game-used, perhaps contributing to the diminished pliability.
Is that real or is that perception? It’s hard to say without more examination.
It’s a valid question to ask: Why can’t first base be similar to home plate? A player running through first base doesn’t have to hold onto it in a slide, similar to second base or third base. Sure, some players slide into first, but that’s pretty rare. If first base were flat like home plate, a runner could still run through it as now, and as long as he didn’t make the turn toward second, he’d still be considered safe.
Here’s what a 2019 base looks like:
The edges are hard and the top is slick, something that easily gets very slippery when it rains.
Compare that to the old-fashioned canvas bag that was used decades ago:
You can see that base has some “give” to it. I’m not sure they could go back to bases like that, but why not have first base be flat like home plate?
That could eliminate injuries like the ones suffered by Bryant and Harper. Olney also wrote, in that 2017 article:
The composition of the bases has changed through the years, from the softer types that Ty Cobb used to slide into to the model that Rickey Henderson raised after breaking Cobb’s record for stolen bases -- seemingly flatter than today’s bases.
Could there be a better surface on the top of the base, less slick than what Harper stepped onto Saturday night? Would it be beneficial if the bases were flatter, and lower to the ground? Could electronics be used in some way, to reduce the need for a raised base? Is there something that could be improved?
These are all questions worth exploring.
Two years ago. It doesn’t appear that any of those questions have been explored since then. Major League Baseball ought to do so. Harper came back from his injury and is still an excellent player. Kris Bryant’s sprained ankle likely keeps him out the rest of 2019, but he ought to be 100 percent by spring training.
But one day, a player could slip like this and suffer a career-ending injury. Why not make a chance that could prevent that?
Get it done, MLB.