Can Baseball Keep It Interesting?
In a game of swinging for the fences, there will be more than a little swinging and missing.
And so baseball has become a mix of home runs and strikeouts, with way too little in between. Hit and run? Manufacture a run with a bunt, a steal and a groundball single? Ancient history.
Baseball’s answer to this apparently will be the end of the defensive shift, a tactic in use since the Cleveland Indians devised it to handle Ted Williams, who was not only a pull hitter but a stubborn pull hitter who refused to hit the ball to the left side of the infield.
In the shift against a left-handed hitter, the shortstop cheats over second base and into an area where the second baseman would cover. The second baseman moves closer to first base. And pull hitters have nowhere to hit the ball on the ground, assuming they are not swinging for the fence. The shift just reverses against right-handed hitters.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to limit, if not eliminate, the shift. It won’t happen tomorrow, but if Manfred wants it, he will probably get it.
“I think we want to proceed judiciously, but I also think we want to proceed,” he said last week.
Don’t like it. Don’t like MLB telling teams where they can play their defenders. Perhaps hitters could learn to, you know, slap the ball the other way and defeat the shift.
Ted Williams was good enough to be stubborn and not take what the defensive alignment gave him. Others today? Perhaps they need to work on their skills, rather than have the commissioner seek rules changes.
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