One would think, considering that the Mets have lost 14 of their last 19 games in Atlanta, that gamesmanship wouldn't be necessary for the Braves, but the groundskeeping crew at Turner Field evidently over-watered the area around first base and the dirt where Reyes plays shortstop in an effort to slow down the MLB batting average leader and gain an edge.
Reyes, the Mets' leadoff hitter, did in fact single to start the game and found himself slipping in the slick slop as he rounded first base. He also slipped while playing his defensive position.
I don't care, said Reyes after the game. I think they put too much water on it. I've played here a lot of times and it was never close to that. I don't know what's going on, but I don't care. If it's wet, I'm going to try and steal anyway. They can do whatever they want to.
Gamesmanship on the part of the grounds crew is nothing new. Stadium workers have been known to make a pitcher's mound higher or lower or sloped strangely to throw the opposing pitcher off his game. Muddying the base paths is an old trick that dates back at least to 1962, when the crew in San Francisco watered the dirt to slow down the Dodgers base-stealer Maury Wills.
One of the best relationships you need to have is with your home groundskeeper, baseball veteran Buck Showalter told ESPN in 2007. Whether it's length of grass or the texture of the dirt, there are a lot of things teams try to do to accentuate their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
Does it expose the players to injury? Possibly, although it's hard to imagine many ballplayers complaining about such dangers.
The gamesmanship on the part of the Braves didn't work last night. The Mets complained to the umpires, the umpires called the Atlanta grounds crew to put dry dirt on the mud, the Mets won 4-3, and Reyes went 3 for 5 with two stolen bases and an RBI.