Is Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner’s slide the prettiest play in baseball?

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THE MOST BEAUTIFUL play in Main League Baseball exists as a result of its practitioner embraced a long-held axiom: Kind follows operate. As soon as upon a time, Trea Turner was a ordinary head-first slider, his fingers and wrists and shoulders uncovered to all of the obstacles that exist when a person launches himself towards stationary objects. As he continued to play — and to observe teammates and opponents alike get harm –, he could not abide the danger. There needed to be a greater approach, a safer approach.

Turner had lengthy studied different consultants of the craft, a small fraternity of males who take baserunning each bit as severely as hitting and glovework. He marveled at Terrance Gore, the stolen-base specialist who would slide on the final doable second. Maybe, Turner thought, there was a method to marry his inherent aptitude with a contact of Gore’s moxie in a feet-first strategy. In 2020, when he was the shortstop for the Washington Nationals, Turner toyed and tinkered till he discovered one thing that actually labored — and with it, a method to leverage his most elemental abilities, this distinctive amalgamation of a sprinter’s pace, a bigger man’s energy, Gumby’s flexibility, a mathematician’s thoughts and a cat burglar’s daring.

The world didn’t take discover till Aug. 10, 2021. It was 11 days after the blockbuster commerce that despatched Turner and Max Scherzer to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Turner stood on second. Will Smith laced a single into proper subject. Bryce Harper fielded it clearly and unleashed a robust throw dwelling. What occurred subsequent was kind overshadowing operate.

About 10 toes from dwelling plate, Turner jumped. His proper leg caught out — he at all times slides proper leg first — and his left leg tucked below his proper, trying like a backward 4. By the point Turner landed, he was virtually previous dwelling plate, aside from his gloved left hand, which he matter-of-factly swiped throughout the dish. With momentum already pulling round his torso, Turner embraced the journey, popping up after a 180-degree spin and strolling towards the dugout in a single uninterrupted movement. The velvetiness, the effortlessness — the aura of the slide was born that day, even when the slide itself predated it.

“I am not essentially making an attempt to be cool or something,” Turner instructed ESPN in an interview final week. “It is extra that I am making an attempt to slip accurately — effectively. I do not decelerate.”

All of that’s true. Turner, now 29, by no means lays off the afterburners. He would not dare take as a right the place of his physique in area. And even when he isn’t essentially making an attempt to be cool or something, the Trea Turner Slide in a short time grew to become A Factor — and, in a single day, grew to become the usual by which slides had been judged.

Few try to duplicate it, lest they be seen as poor imitations of a patented maneuver. Which, over the previous yr, it has develop into. In a sport with beautiful swings and picturesque pitching deliveries, the standard slide has stolen hearts. Although maybe that should not be fairly as a lot of a shock as it’s.

ON DEC. 21, 1958, Gene Kelly joined the NBC present “Omnibus” to elucidate to viewers how dance and sports activities had been way more alike than many realized. He requested Johnny Unitas to throw a soccer and Bob Cousy to play tight protection on the basketball court docket. When it got here round to baseball, Kelly left the selection as much as Mickey Mantle.

“Give us essentially the most thrilling factor to you in any baseball sport,” Kelly stated. “What would it not be?” “I believe essentially the most thrilling factor for me in baseball,” Mantle stated, “is making an attempt to steal second base or taking an additional base and sliding in actual laborious.”

A lot as Kelly tried to duplicate Mantle’s and make it resemble dance, the slides of the Nineteen Fifties had been far grittier than the model sometimes employed at the moment. Runners deliberately went in spikes up. Breaking apart double performs wasn’t simply inspired however mandated. Slides had been typically slides and typically messages. Accidents went each methods.

Kelly would swoon at what at the moment’s sport affords, the place creativity, spawned by Turner and his friends, abounds. The swim transfer, during which a slider affords an arm for a fielder to tag, then pulls it again and reaches round with one other, is standard. Longtime utilityman Chris Coghlan as soon as leapt over Yadier Molina solely, touching dwelling plate on his frontflip. The lack to take out a second baseman or catcher has necessitated gamers rely extra on their abilities. Turner embodies it, prompting these round him to lavish reward.

“You are one thing that is actually spontaneous — a motion that brings again the entire concept of letting your self go and never caring you are going to get soiled and tear up your uniform,” stated Jeffrey M. Katz, the writer of “Plié Ball,” a ebook that explores the intersection of baseball and dance. “While you see a good looking slide, you have got a sense there is a thought course of behind it. There’s one thing deliberate — a way that whoever’s doing it understands that not solely is it going to get him the place he must go, it is nearly a efficiency. It is one thing individuals are observing. You are placing your creativity into it and giving followers one thing to take pleasure in. It is a pure finesse.”

There’s a universality to a Trea Turner Slide, an aesthetic that appeals to anybody who has tried to salvage a fall with a slick restoration. (In different phrases, each single certainly one of us.) Turner’s falls could also be intentional and managed, but it surely does not reduce the magnificence of the end, like a gymnast sticking the touchdown or a stunt driver gliding right into a slim parking spot.

“Music in movement is sort of a trite saying,” Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts stated, “but it surely’s simply the final word grace and physique management with the facility of making pace. And so to have the ability to slide and naturally rise up — that takes plenty of pace and physique management. And I do not assume individuals respect how laborious it’s to do but it surely speaks to what an athlete he’s.”

“It is the space he covers after which how he simply drops his hand in and places it completely on the plate after which simply pops up like nothing ever occurred,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman stated. “It is only a stunning factor to observe. It actually is gorgeous.”

Lovely sufficient, actually, to warrant inclusion on a dance present — aside from the truth that Turner would not ever get wherever close to one. In 2019, on the way in which to their World Sequence championship, the Nationals developed a celebratory custom: Each time a participant hit a house run, upon his reentry into the dugout, he wanted to bounce.

“It was my worst nightmare,” Turner stated.

Turner … effectively, Turner cannot dance. As soon as, he tried to do a easy groove within the dugout and was a contact Elaine-ish for everybody’s style. One other time, he tried the “Apache” dance from The Contemporary Prince of Bel-Air. The hip thrusts had been messy. The 360 within the dance wasn’t practically as pure as his 180 on the slide.

“I work out on the similar place each offseason. I work on kind,” Turner stated. “When the man I work with tells me find out how to transfer, I get actually uncoordinated actually quick. However in case you inform me go over there and catch this ball, I’ve a easy purpose and my physique strikes just a little bit higher. Dancing shouldn’t be for me.”

Good factor just about every part on the baseball subject is.

IN THE PAST, when he had some spare time, Trea Turner appreciated to construct issues. He went to North Carolina State as a severely underrecruited baseball expertise, in addition to somebody who took his lecturers severely sufficient that he deliberate to main in chemical engineering. That left-brain want to manufacture spilled over to computer systems. Turner watched a YouTube video and assembled one. After that, he put collectively a pair extra with none tutorials.

That type of structured strategy to his sport has introduced Turner to locations effectively past these of somebody who simply slides fairly. He is among the greatest gamers in baseball. Turner is one hit behind Freeman for the key league lead. If he passes him and holds on to the lead, Turner would be the first participant in baseball historical past to outright lead all the main leagues in hits over three consecutive seasons. (Ichiro Suzuki gained 5 consecutive hit titles, however he tied with Dustin Pedroia for the third.)

Few can match Turner’s mixture of energy (18 dwelling runs) and baserunning acumen (20 stolen bases). His pace stays essentially the most persistently glorious in the entire sport, bursting 30-plus toes per second as he approaches 30 years outdated.

“I am younger. I am contemporary,” Turner stated. “I get older in comparison with how younger the sport has gotten. I am simply making an attempt to maintain up with the 22-, 23-year-olds.”

With good cause: Turner will hit free company for the primary time this winter and face no scarcity of suitors. His most related batter, in keeping with Baseball-Reference: his former Dodgers teammate Corey Seager, who fetched a $325 million deal final winter. Turner is older. He does not hit for fairly the identical energy. However the weaknesses in his sport are restricted, and his want to remain wholesome and play each sport this season — he is 121 for 121 to date — suggests Turner’s safe-slide technique is doing its half.

There are nonetheless mysteries to it, greatest left to curious physicists and quantity crunchers. Even Statcast can solely quantify it to a degree — positive, Turner ranks first within the majors this yr in 30-plus-foot-per-second runs with 100 (24 greater than the subsequent greatest, Bobby Witt Jr.) and second in dash pace, at 30.3 (0.1 seconds behind the leaders, Witt and Jose Siri). The difficult-to-measure components present the actual thriller. Why, for instance, does Turner slide as if friction doesn’t exist for him? Mere mortals cease after they launch themselves onto grass or filth, and Turner retains gliding like the principles of the universe do not apply — or as if he controls his weight so exquisitely that he renders them a nonfactor. Or is it the size of the slides themselves, as Freeman advised, that makes Turner’s so stunning? Is he truly sliding a number of toes farther than his fellow gamers?

The solutions do not matter to Turner. As left-brain as he could be in planning out his future, on the sector his right-brain takes over. Baseball is a inventive sport. It is why a number of weeks in the past, he busted out the well-known slide chasing down a pop-up in foul territory that seemed far out of attain. He caught the ball and smooth-landed the slide, after all.

“I am making an attempt to be good at every part,” Turner stated. “I need to be a superb defender. I need to be a superb hitter. I need to be a superb baserunner. And I am making an attempt to enhance on all of these issues.”

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