Scott Boras wants MLB to outlaw defensive shifts and says that it discriminates against left handed hitters more than right handed hitters because one of the players to the right side of the infield can play short right field due to the short(er) throw to first base. The fact that Scott Boras represents Bryce Harper who will be a free agent at the end of this season and Harper is hitting a measly .218 this year means that every one of his statements must be viewed in that context. It also seems as if Commissioner Rob Manfred has an anti-shift point of view. I look at this differently:
- Unless the rulebook defines specifically the area of the playing field in which a player must stand as the ball is put into play, then those players should be able to position themselves in any way they want to.
Note, the pitcher’s position is defined in the rulebook and so is the catcher’s position as is the batter’s. Technically, the positions of the base coaches are defined also, but it seems as if that positioning is rarely if ever enforced. So, if a manager wants to play 5 infielders and only 2 outfielders, I think he should be allowed to do that. Similarly, if he wants 4 outfielders and only 3 infielders, mazel tov.
Only one rule change idea that I have seen makes even a little sense to me and that is to require all four infielders to have both feet on the dirt infield at the time that the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. That would still allow managers to shift defensively, but it would get rid of the short-fielder in right field.
My position here is that this is a problem to be solved by MLB players who face a defensive shift. Long ago, Wee Willie Keeler explained his success at the plate saying that he “hit ‘em where they ain’t”. When the defensive shift is on, there is a lot of territory where “they ain’t” available to hitters who want to take advantage of it.
There is also talk among the baseball pundits that MLB will be expanding to 32 teams in the near future. I do not like that particularly even though it would solve a scheduling problem that now exists. With 16 teams in each league, the schedule would not have to have inter-league games every week of the season; that would be a plus. I don’t like the idea because there are not enough good pitchers around these days and the addition of 2 more teams would put 24 or 25 Triple A pitchers in MLB. I know they want to increase offense, but that is not the answer.
Some of the pundits also suggest that if the leagues expand and if offense continues to be in a downward trend that the DH will be adopted by the National League. I would absolutely hate to see that happen. The DH is a way in which each team can carry a player or two whose toolbox only contains one tool; the only position they can play reliably is “Batter”.
If you want to see “change”, then consider that there are other baseball players who can do parts of the game as well as DHs can play “Batter”. So:
- Why not Designated Fielders?
- How about Designated Base Runners?
If you expanded the roster from 25 players to 35 players, you could emulate the NFL and have a two-platoon system. Makes as much sense as the DH to me… [Aside: You do realize that this is reduction ad absurdum, right?]
Sticking with baseball, two trades recently made a lot of sense to me.
- Mets sent closer Jeurys Familia to the A’s for prospects.
- Padres traded Brad Hand to the Indians for a “top catching prospect”.
The reality of 2018 is that the Padres and the Mets are not going to threaten to make the playoffs; they do not need elite closers; if they blow a game or two with a lesser talent at closer, that means they will miss the playoffs by 20 games instead of by 18 games. Familia and Hand are both top-shelf closers. Both the Indians and the A’s are looking at the potential for a playoff run; they need closers.
According to my reasoning, there are 2 other closers who could easily be on the move soon:
- Kyle Barraclough, currently with the Marlins, has a 2.45 ERA, a 2-to-1 strikeout to walks ratio and a WHIP of 1.07. The Marlins have been playing well for the last 4-6 weeks but they ain’t making the playoffs, so this may be a commodity that they use to add to their form system.
- Zach Britton, currently with the Orioles, only has 4 saves this year but he spent some time on the DL and the Orioles do not get to the 9th inning with the lead very often. For his career, he averages 27 saves per 162 game seasons. The Orioles are going nowhere and need farm system upgrades desperately.
Finally, Gregg Drinnan had this note in his Taking Note blog recently. I read the same column by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times and somehow missed this great line. Fortunately, Gregg Drinnan did not:
“ ’England not only lost 2-1 to Croatia in the semifinals,’ notes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, ‘but the team was fined $70,000 for wearing ‘unauthorized socks.’ Since when has Roger Goodell been in charge of the World Cup?’ “
But don’t get me wrong I love sports………