Today I learned something!
Top of the fifth inning in our nation's capital, and Andrelton Simmons poked a ground ball up the middle. Ian Desmond snagged it near second base, and fired to first base just in time to retire Simmons despite the latter's headlong slide. Which led to this exchange in the broadcast booth ...
Bob Carpenter: And Simmons sliding in, still out. If there's a high throw, that slide can be an effective play. Don't know if it slowed him down or not, but Desmond took care of that.
F.P. Santangelo: Well it most definitely slows you down. Running through the base is much quicker. But a lot of times, what runners will do when they know they're out is try to trick the umpire and sell the call. Dana Demuth not buying it ... But in essence what you're doing when you dive into first base is you're taking the sound away of your foot hitting the base, versus the ball hitting the glove, and it'll confuse an umpire, to where, every once in a while -- I'd say one out of every 10 -- you'll get the call.
But you really have to be safe when you dive into first, to get the call. Most umpires will tell you, it confuses them to where they're going to call you out, every time.
Hmmm. Now I'm not sure what I've learned. Because the umpire isn't supposed to worry about "the sound ... your foot hitting the base." Exactly the opposite. As Joe Brinkman says in The Umpire's Handbook, "The only way to make a call at first base is to watch the bag and listen for the sound of the ball hitting the glove of the fielder at first base. If you hear the ball hit the glove before the runner's foot hits the bag, the runner is out. Otherwise, the runners is safe."
Which is why it's so difficult to make the call on a close play at first base in a noisy stadium. You simply can't see both the glove and the foot at the same time, so if you can't hear anything you're lost.
So I think Santangelo is wrong. Sliding into first base has nothing to do with sound. But Santangelo played for a long time, and if he says the sliders are trying to confuse the arbiters, I tend to believe him. I also believe him when he says it rarely works.