There’s a lot of chatter today about the play that resulted in Josh Hamilton breaking his arm yesterday. A lot of it — most notably from Buster Olney — involves questioning his head-first slide. I’m not too impressed with that line of thinking. Lots of guys — most guys, in fact — slide head first. Maybe it’s not ideal, and maybe it’s not what should be taught to kids, but it’s certainly accepted now, and it’s not like you change those sorts of habits.
The real question I have is why Hamilton was even going in the first place. And not just because it seemed like the wrong kind of ball to take that kind of chance on. Hamilton actually agreed with that in real time and publicly criticized his third base coach over it after the game (“I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t want to do this. Something’s going to happen.’ But I listened to my coach”). Throwing the base coach under the bus like that didn’t reflect particularly well on Hamilton, but what reflects worse on Hamilton is going along with the bad call anyway.
Josh Hamilton is the reigning AL MVP. He’s the centerpiece of the Texas Rangers offense. While you don’t want players shirking the authority of the coaches, if the player is a superstar with the baseball instincts of Josh Hamilton and, if as Hamilton said was the case here, he has a strong feeling that something bad is going to happen on the play, the player should substitute his judgment for that of the base coach. Ron Washington isn’t going to put Josh Hamilton in the dog house if he ignores the coach on a play like that. Young players aren’t going to henceforth ignore the coach’s instructions. Hamilton should have gone with his gut and stuck at third.
Or, if he simply felt that he had no choice in the matter and had to do what the coach said, he sure as hell shouldn’t have come out and criticized the guy after the fact. I mean, if you’re going to follow military protocol in following orders, you should probably follow military protocol in not questioning them later.