The Way It Was
I’ve been a Major League Baseball (MLB) fan since 1981. For many years the game was played the same way. Good pitching beat good hitting. If teams were able to pair that with solid defense they won championships or at least contended for them often. Some might say this is still the case, but oh is it different now!
Things started to change in the late 80’s with the steroid era. By the late 90’s home runs were flying out of ballparks at record rates. Once MLB started policing themselves things changed dramatically, but not for the reasons many expected.
With the origin of “Moneyball” in the early 2000’s the age of analytics began and the two dirtiest words of them all, “The Shift”, slowly crept into the mainstream. Now shifting is nothing new. I remember reading about how teams would shift against Ted Williams before my time back in the 1940’s. He was just such a great hitter that he’d hit right through it. In today’s era though the shift is resulting in more balls being hit for home runs or strikeouts than ever before. Launch angles are all the craze. Consistent contact is not. Line drives that would go for base hits in the past are now routine outs to the infielder playing out of his “normal” position.
Ban the Shift
This brings me to my point: The Shift needs to be banned. I know to the protectors of the game’s past this is sacrilege. I MOSTLY like the game the way it is as well. But, and I really mean BUT, the shift is ruining today’s game.
I’ve heard the arguments against it and agree 100 percent. Hitters should learn to hit the other way. Hitters need to bunt against the shift. But you know what? They don’t do it. The hitters either can’t hit the opposite way and/or can’t bunt or are too stubborn to try. And it’s ruining the game. Players have had their careers end rather than make these adjustments. My guess is that after many years of pulling the ball they aren’t interested in learning to bunt or go the other way. After all how many home runs are they gonna lose bunting or going for cheap singles the other way?
I’ve heard many ideas discussed to fix this shifting situation. They range from the ridiculous to the over complicated. I’m not gonna waste time here regurgitating them. The solution is an easy one.
The first baseman, second baseman and right fielder must be on the right side of the middle of the field until contact is made with the hitter’s bat or the ball crosses home plate. The third baseman, shortstop and left fielder must be on the left side of the middle of the field until contact is made with the hitter’s bat or the ball crosses home plate. The center fielder is free to roam. Once the ball is either hit or crosses home plate they can attempt to go wherever they want. Before then though they can only position themselves right up to middle of the field. Put a chalk line down if this is difficult to legislate.
And before anyone gets any smart ideas the outfielders must stay in the outfield. Some might say you can’t limit the outfielders playing in and you can’t. They’d be allowed to go right up to the infield dirt. I don’t see teams doing this on a regular basis but if it were to become a problem down the road I’m open to adjusting it. That would be for later though. For now I’d kinda like to see teams sacrificing an outfielder to play him up against the infield dirt. Would make for some interesting baseball with all of that open territory in the outfield.
To the detractors I say try it for one year and see what happens. If it causes unintended consequences that could ruin the game undo it. One year won’t destroy the game. I think it will improve it greatly.
For the people that say you’re ruining the integrity of the game by limiting the fielders my response is a simple one: I’ve seen the NFL, NBA and NHL all put specific rules and limitations in play to force the action in a certain direction. Whether it was the NBA removing the hand check. The NFL protecting the quarterback more than ever. Or the NHL removing the penalty for the two line pass. Each of these rules dramatically changed their games.
The Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and the head of the Player’s Association Tony Clark need to get this done.