In the eighth inning this afternoon, Jayson Werth hit a groundball to the left side and watched it sneak through Aaron Miles’ legs. As the ball rolled into the outfield, Werth bolted around first base, made a wide turn and realized left fielder Tony Gwynn would not let him make second base.
And then he did something funny: In the middle of the base path, Werth slid.
Werth has done that a few times this season. When he makes an aggressive turn at first, he sometimes will not just stop by stuttering his feet. He’ll just slide, stand up and jog back to first. “It’s like a little kid trying to get his uniform dirty,” Ian Desmond said.
“I’ve bee doing that since I was kid,” Werth explained. “In my mind, it’s the best option. Maybe it was my size and being tall, kind of gangly when I was younger. Short strides when I was younger to stop were not really the easiest thing for me to do. So I just was kind of like, ‘I’ll just pop-up slide and get back.’ It’s stayed with me, and I’ve always done it. For me, it’s the best option.”
It is also the safest option. Players can roll ankles trying to make a hard stop after coming around the bag. Anthony Rendon, the Nationals’ first draft pick, broke his ankle trying to do it playing for Team USA a couple years ago.
“It’s not easy to shut it down like that, to plant, turn around and go back the other way, with spikes on,” Werth said.
As far as I’ve seen, Werth is the only major leaguer who uses the slide-to-stop technique on the bases. It is instructive about Werth’s view of the game – he always looking for every little edge he can find, constantly tinkering and wondering what extra thing is out there that may help him win. It also says something else about him.
“I strive,” he said, “to be the dirtiest guy on the team.”