The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Kevin Wilson
Managing editor 

Overcome shifts; don't outlaw them

 


Life has unwritten rules.

Always double down on 11.

Never cross the streams.

You can’t date your friend’s sibling unless you’re considering marriage.

When it comes to baseball, I usually think unwritten rules exist because they’re too stupid to write down.

Don’t steal signs from the catcher? Maybe there’s a better code out there than, “One finger for fastball.”

You can’t bunt to break up a no-hitter. What if it’s 1-0? I’m sure you want your career highlight, but I’d still like to try to win the game.

Which brings us to the current Major League Baseball craze known as the shift. For non-baseball fans, the shift means putting defensive players where the offensive player is most likely to hit the ball.

In some cases, the shifts are comically one-sided. Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo has been targeted with shifts throughout the season because of his propensity to hit the ball to the right side. Last month, the Houston Astros greeted Gallo with four defenders in right field, a shortstop at second base and no defenders on the left except for leftfielder Marwin Gonzales.

It’s having an impact. The 2018 season is on pace to have the fewest amount of singles in a season. What used to be a hard single to right gets scooped up by a third baseman playing shallow right field.

Ned Yost is the manager of the Kansas City Royals, and he’s a great one. He led the Royals to the 2015 World Series title, and that was the year after he led the team to a nailbiter World Series loss to the Giants.

Yost doesn’t like the shift, likely because Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas has seen the shift more than any batter this season.

When asked if he’d like defensive shifts outlawed, he said, “Go for it. Set it up. The game has changed so much. You can’t slide into second base (aggressively), you can’t make more than six visits to the mound, you can’t slide into home plate (through the catcher). I’m fine with all that ... you talk about low scoring, you talk about strikeouts; if you can eliminate the shift it’s going to increase offense.”

I understand Yost’s frustration, and appreciate that he’s trying to think outside of the box. But where do you draw the line? If an outfielder decides to play shallow or deep, isn’t that a shift?

And do you draw the line on positioning? What if White Sox Manager Robin Ventura said his guys couldn’t hit curveballs? Would Yost order his pitchers to only throw fastballs and sliders? Such a move would certainly increase offense, but I think Yost is going to tell his pitchers to throw curveballs and beat its division rival.

I felt the same way about the NBA when it took measures to curb the “Hack-a-Shaq,” where teams would intentionally foul the player with the worst free-throw percentage to disrupt a team’s offense. Why is it a league’s job to change rules when liabilities are exploited?

Last week, the Astros put the same shift on Joey Gallo. He bunted down the third base line and got himself a single.

Gallo learned the only rule of baseball that counts, written or not: Hit it where they ain’t. MLB shouldn’t make that lesson optional.

Kevin Wilson is managing editor of The Eastern New Mexico News. Contact him at: [email protected]

 

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