Bryce Harper’s injury over the weekend could’ve been much worse than it was. When it happened it reminded me of Tim Krumrie’s injury in Super Bowl XXIII or when Jason Kendall broke his ankle back in 1999. If you’re unaware of those you’re free to Google them on your own, because I get nauseous even thinking about them. Suffice it to say: legs aren’t supposed to bend that way, and that Harper escaped with only a bone bruise, even a severe one, is a minor miracle.
Not that there aren’t people still upset about it. Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, believes the injury never should’ve happened. He thinks that damp bases, like the one Harper slipped on Saturday night, should be on Major League Baseball’s radar. Here’s Boras from an interview with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick:
“We go to great lengths with the soil to make sure it’s not wet and there are drying agents on the ground. I don’t know what technology we apply or the studies that have been done on the composition of having a wet base. That’s certainly something we need to look into. This injury was directly related to inclement weather and a player putting his cleat on the bag and it slipping across because the surface was slick . . . In the NBA, when a player hits the floor and there’s perspiration on the floor, they clean it up immediately so the surface isn’t slick. In baseball, we have no one cleaning the bags between innings during inclement weather.”
It’s a worthy observation, but the falling rain is not as easily tackled as a fallen player. The whistle usually blows soon after a basketball player hits the boards, but play does not stop in baseball simply because of some raindrops — the sort of rain in Washington on Saturday is the kind through which games are routinely played — and the raindrops do not schedule their falling between innings. There are going to be times when a base is damp. It’s pretty much unavoidable.
Will Major League Baseball do anything about it? I doubt directly, because there isn’t much to do. Maybe, over time, they’ll look at altering the surface of the bag somewhat to make it more tacky, but they’d be doing it as a result of what I think we can safely call a freak accident as opposed to the words of Boras. And of course, some may argue that a tackier base could lead to different sorts of injuries.
I think the bigger fallout of Harper’s injury will be for managers to be less likely to play star players when there’s even a little rain, if they can at all justify it. In this case Harper was playing on a wet track in a delayed game against a last place team while his club held a 14.5-game lead in the standings. It’s hindsight, but some have likely argued that he could’ve been held out. Whether or not that’s reasonable, I expect to see more superstars held out in conditions like that going forward.