Tuesday, April 16

Monumental Major League Middle Finger?

DEAR RICKY: I am 45 years old. All my life, I have wanted to play professional baseball for the Minnesota Twins. At this point, I realize that I don’t have the talent to make it to the big leagues, so I am considering a radical surgery to alter my body to allow me to become the greatest base stealer in the history of the game.

My plan is to get finger extension surgery for the middle finger on my left hand. I’m not talking mere inches here … I’m talking a monumentally long prosthetic finger that will allow me to touch second base from first base in a manner of milliseconds.

My question is twofold. One, how long would this finger need to be to ensure I can reach base successfully every time. Two, would this procedure be against the current rules of Major League Baseball? Bonus question: what else could one do with an extremely unnecessarily long finger?


DEAR FINGER: First, let’s start with some basic baseball and mathematics. The distance between the pitcher’s rubber and the back of home plate is 60.5 feet. Let’s say Nolan Ryan is pitching and releases the fastest pitch in recorded history (108.1 mph) at 5.5 feet in front of the rubber. This ball would travel 55 feet in 158.5 feet per second (fps) giving us a time of .347 seconds.

Next, we need to calculate pop time – the time it takes the catcher to throw the ball to second base. We’ll say J.T. Realmuto is behind the plate throwing from home to second base (127.281 feet) with the fastest pop time in recorded history of 1.82 seconds. This gives us an all-time fastest time to beat: 2.167 seconds.

The distance from the edge of first base to the edge of second base is 87.75 feet. For the sake of argument, let’s say you want to get to second base safely in 2 seconds to avoid any close calls. Assuming you have an arm’s length of 2 feet (with normal finger length), you would need to travel at 42.875 fps (29.233 mph) to beat the fastest-ever pitch and pop time. Now, not even Rickey Henderson (~21 mph) or Usain Freakin’ Bolt (~27 mph) would be able to beat this perfect throw in the scenario we have set up.

Note: I am not calculating the pitcher’s wind-up time as I assume you (not a professional athlete) have very slow reaction reflexes and are taking all precautions to not leave the base until the pitch has been thrown. Also, I am assuming you will not be leading off of first base so you have a zero percent chance of getting picked off.

If you run at a slow speed of 7.333 feet per second (5 mph) you will run 14.666 feet in two seconds needing a finger length of 71.084 feet to make up the difference (taking into account your 2 foot-long arm). If you can double your speed to 14.667 fps (10 mph) you will run 29.334 feet in two seconds, needing a finger length of 57.416 feet. If you can get your speed up to 22 feet per second (15 mph) you will run 44 feet in two seconds, needing a finger length of 43.75 feet.

A 43.75 foot long prosthetic finger? That’s a long-ass middle finger, but you will successfully be able to steal second base every single damn time.

As far as the legalities of a finger lengthening procedure, I can find no official MLB rule banning performance-enhancing surgeries – only performance-enhancing drugs. I do believe your shenanigans would be frowned upon and that a rule would soon follow, but if you want one brief moment of glory you should go for it!

And, what else could you do with an extremely unnecessarily long finger? I’m gonna pass on that one.



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