On Sunday night, the red-hot Philadelphia Phillies played the star-studded Washington Nationals in a nationally televised game with major implications in the division standings. The Nats erased a four-run deficit to secure a thrilling 8-6 victory, but a scary moment in the top of the eighth stood out the most in the eyes of this writer.
A few innings after a 40-minute rain delay, Philadelphia third baseman Maikel Franco hit a sharp grounder to second that infielder Wilmer Difo had a tough time handling. Franco ran the ball out and Difo threw it wide, handing him an easy single.
However, when Franco stepped on first, his right foot slipped off the bag. The third baseman’s leg locked up and he fell to ground. Thankfully, Franco was comfortable enough to stay in the game after talking with a trainer for a few moments. Although he didn’t return to the field in the bottom half of the inning, Franco reportedly insists the only lingering pain he has is in his lower back and he hopes to play Monday.
Franco slipped on first and it looked bad when his cleat caught, but he did stay in, Murphy's reaction says it pic.twitter.com/imCoRjrfc6— CJ Fogler (@cjzer0) June 25, 2018
The fall starkly resembled that of Bryce Harper last August, who ultimately missed six weeks after slipping over first base in a game that had been delayed by inclement weather.
Although Harper worked his way back to the field in time for the postseason, the injury still cost him a chance at his second career MVP award.
“I don’t know what technology we apply or the studies that have been done on the composition of having a wet base,” Harper’s agent Scott Boras told ESPN after the injury. “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.”
It’s been almost a year since Harper’s injury, yet the league still hasn’t addressed the issue.
Franco may not be a member of the Nationals, but nobody wants to see a player go down with an injury — especially if it’s for something that could be prevented.
It’s very simple: This cannot be allowed to happen again. Franco was lucky enough to walk away from the incident without any serious injuries, but he won’t be the last player to slip over a wet base if the league doesn’t take notice. The joint Safety and Health Advisory Committee, which is responsible for regulating player safety issues, must learn from this incident and make a change before another Harper-like scenario ends someone’s season.
The MLB already has a problem with non-contact injuries. Arm and shoulder ailments are very common among pitchers and hitters have to worry about remaining stretched out while also being more susceptible to injuries caused by things like errant pitches and collisions in the field. There’s little rationale for keeping the current base when it has an established track record of creating injurious situations.
The Nationals made the decision on their own to have the grounds crew check and replace the bases between innings on rainy days to ensure that the bags are always dry after the injury to Harper, but MLB hasn’t addressed the issue league-wide. Maybe the base is flattened to prevent any ankles from turning the wrong way when players step on it. A water-resistant material could be experimented with for implementation.
There are many ways the MLB can choose to address this issue. Yet while Franco’s luck may keep him off the disabled list, it might also prevent the league from taking the problem seriously. Then again, Harper is one of the biggest stars in the game and the league still did nothing about it when he was the one taking a fall.