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Bradley Zimmer dives head-first into first base, breaks bone in left hand

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Update (10:37 PM, September 11): Bastian reports that Zimmer will undergo surgery as Zimmer suffered a broken fourth metacarpal on the dive attempt. The Indians don’t have a timetable for his recovery yet, but he will very likely miss the rest of the regular season, if not the playoffs.

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Update (11:46 PM ET): Per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Zimmer suffered a broken bone in his left hand on the slide. He’ll be examined by a doctor on Monday.

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Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer tried his hardest to beat out a routine ground ball in the bottom of the seventh inning, diving head-first into first base, but he was ultimately called out. Zimmer was shaken up on the play and he needed attention from the team trainer to examine his hand. He initially stayed in the game but he was taken out before the top of the eighth.

Every so often, we hear about a player suffering an injury hustling to first base trying to turn an out into a hit. Sometimes, it works and the player gets a hit out of it. Sometimes, it goes really wrong and the player suffers a serious injury like a broken finger or wrist. Is the risk worth the reward? Unless it’s Game 7 of the World Series, probably not. And even then, from the player’s perspective, still probably not because he could be potentially costing himself millions of dollars and multiple years on a contract. Teams don’t like to make heavy commitments to injured/injury-prone players.

Back in 2012, then-Dodgers first base coach Davey Lopes — one of the greatest base runners of all time — said of former major leaguer Nick Punto’s propensity to dive into first base, “I wouldn’t teach it,” J.P. Hoornstra reported. John Brenkus also proved for ESPN many years ago that it’s better to run through the bag as opposed to diving.

In Zimmer’s situation, his team was in the midst of an historic 17-game winning streak (now 18) and is battling the Astros for the best record in the league. Games are very meaningful right now, so it’s understandable why he’d push his pedal to the metal. But he also recently came off of the seven-day concussion disabled list after injuring his head attempting to make a catch on Setpember 2. Is a single in a game his team was already leading 3-2 worth it compared to the Indians potentially losing him for the stretch run when the club is already missing Michael Brantley? Oftentimes, the motivations of a team is at odds with a player’s best interest, but here, the Indians very much want to keep Zimmer healthy. They would have traded that single and even the continuation of their winning streak in order to make that happen, for sure.

The blame here lies in the “hustle” culture of sports. In baseball, we publicly ostracize players who appear to take it easy on a routine grounder or pop-up and humiliate them in the very rare instance in which a fielder misplays one of those otherwise routine outs. But those who “dog it” have it right: turning the occasional ground out or fly out into a single (or, more rarely, a double) isn’t worth potentially winding up on the 10-day disabled list with a pulled hamstring, a dislocated finger, or a concussion. If I’m in the front office or the coaching staff of a baseball team, one of the first things I’m stressing early in spring training is that it is not okay to dive into first base under any circumstances unless it’s Game 7 of the World Series and the score is close.

The Indians should have more information on Zimmer’s status on Monday. In the meantime, Zimmer is very likely regretting his decision to put in some extra effort. As Allan F. Mogensen said in the 1930’s, “Work smarter, not harder.”

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.