MLB Has No Business Playing With The Shift Or Length Of Games

MLB Rule Changes

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred can’t stop himself from making rule changes. Some are neutral, but others affect game outcomes, like these two…

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s professional background is in law, not baseball.

Before being elected by team owners as the 10th commissioner of baseball, Manfred’s specialty lay in labor relations. He was first noticed during the 1987 bargaining between owners and players on a new contract.

Anxious to seal his legacy, though, Manfred presents himself as The Guy who knows what’s best for baseball and to prove it, he’s come up with a litany of rule changes, some of which directly affect the outcome of games.

MLB: Not All Rule Changes Are Created Equal

Not all rule changes are created equal, some are neutral, and they do not affect how the game is played or decided.

For instance, MLB is testing a rule in the minor leagues to increase the size of the bases from 15 inches to 18 inches per side.

This rule change is player safety driven and makes all the sense in the world, especially on plays at first base when the pitcher receives a toss, a play that often results in a collision between the runner and pitcher.

Mild criticism of this rule change says it gives a runner trying to steal less distance to cover and the catcher a millisecond less time to make the throw.

I say who the hell cares – nobody steals bases anymore, anyway.

MLB: Leave The Shift Alone Until It Dies Naturally

A good primer can be found here in MLB’s Glossary for MLB fans who are not familiar with “The Shift” in baseball.

However, all you really need to know is that the shift is designed to get batters out, and more often than not, it works.

However, MLB and Manfred don’t like that. They want to see more hits, and especially the ones that land over fences and walls – to the delight of MLB fans.

Manfred tells us that his newest plan to “regulate” the shift (this Forbes article has the details) is designed to “restore” baseball to how it was once played.

Baloney, Rob, you’re lying to us again.

MLB: Ridiculous? Of course, but it's a manager's decision
MLB: Ridiculous? Of course, but it’s a manager’s decision

Tell us the truth – that what you are really trying to do is generate more offense in the game. It’s a direct response to how pitchers are dominating hitters this year, where the average batting average, for example, is a mere .240, and once again, we’ll see more strikeouts than base hits.

This doesn’t seem right. You can’t tell an NFL coach he’s not allowed to use double-coverage on a receiver, or he can’t use a three-person rush instead of four.

The underlying problem stems from batters who insist on trying to hit “through the shift,” which is the same thing as an NFL quarterback who throws a pass to a receiver engulfed by three defenders, only to wonder why that ball was intercepted.

Do that four or five times, and that quarterback quickly finds himself on the taxi squad or completely off the team.

But in MLB, trying to hit through the shift is not only tolerated – it’s encouraged.

Why? Well, it goes back to the almighty home run and the players who make the bigger bucks by hitting more of them than others.

Tony Gwynn - Hall of Fame Run Producer
Tony Gwynn – Hall of Fame Run Producer

The MLB Commissioner is correct in saying baseball needs to be “restored” to the “look” it had yesterday, when batters went the other way, moved runners along on the bases, and when situational hitting guys like Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, and today, DJ LeMahieu and Jose Altuve earn their teams wins.

MLB is overstepping its boundaries. Leave the shift alone, and let managers do the strategizing…

Meanwhile, here’s how it’s done…

MLB’s Tinkering With The Length Of Games

MLB now says the seven-inning doubleheader and man on second to starts half-innings for extra-inning games should be headed for the trash heap in 2022.

Here we go again, though, with MLB spinning tales and lies.

While MLB insists that both rule changes were made as a response to last year’s COVID-influenced season, and therefore it’s time to “restore” (there’s that word again) baseball to its original rules, the truth lies elsewhere.

MLB’s hidden agenda was and continues to be to shorten the length of games. It had nothing to do with COVID or did they forget that there were no fans in the stands to contract the illness, and players were being tested daily?

Moreover, with the advent of the various vaccines and the ever-declining COVID-related illnesses and hospitalizations, why didn’t Manfred and MLB do away with both rules before the start of the 2021 season, when it was clear fans would soon be attending games?

Neither rule has a place in baseball. The seven-inning doubleheader scheme is particularly offensive to fans who are still required to pay full price for a ticket to split-doubleheaders, something MLB should have (but didn’t) outlaw teams from doing.

As a sidebar on the man-on-second rule, it amazes me how many times major league teams can’t score a run with anybody out. Can’t anyone here play this game? You know, how about a ground ball to second moving the runner to third, followed by a sacrifice fly?

It happens all the time, even though managers avoid employing the shift to keep the third baseman close to the bag…

MLB Playing Dodgeball

Any of these or other rule changes can be mandated by MLB, as long as they give the Player’s Association (MLBPA) one year’s notice before the rule takes effect.

MLBPA and MLB Tangling Again 2021
MLBPA and MLB Tangling Again 2021

Seeing the incendiary reactions (and we haven’t even mentioned the DH in the National League) to their proposals coming from all sides (fans, players, managers, general managers), MLB has decided to kick the can down the road to December when talks will begin on a new player/owner agreement.

Bad, bad, bad. There are already a series of revenue-related issues to be dealt with – and now the team and owner representatives will need to devote time to working out an agreement over seven-inning doubleheaders??

If MLB and Manfred had any you-know-whats, they’d have made the announcement favoring removing these rules for the 2022 season, and talks would have begun before December (nothing is preventing that).

If you are not angry enough by now, try this.

The next time your favorite player tries to hit through the shift with a runner on second and no one out, and he fails to hit a ball through that big hole on the infield, and your team loses – ask yourself – is he playing for the team or himself?

Because you see, it’s not only about MLB; it’s the players too.

On the lighter side, you might enjoy this video…


Here’s What Readers Are Saying…

Jesse BrahmAgreed! The three batter minimum is trash too

Anthony Whiteman I hear you about the shift but in reality it has made the game more boring and not as exciting. I agree with Theo Epstein as you know is a consultant to MLB and is looking to make the game the best version it can be. If you or anyone else has not seen this you should watch it. Definitely a breath of fresh air.

Evan WetzelGetting rid of the shift, is good for baseball

Mike HarringtonI agree with you on all your points except the shift. I do think the time has come to put some reasonable limits on it (and yeah I am well aware of historical things like the Ted Williams shift).

It’s a pure absurdity when you got 5 guys on an infield, 4 infielders on one side of the field etc.
My preferred limitation is specific to infielders. I would limit them to halfway towards the nearest base(s) beyond their position. This still allows a good degree of shifting and most normal shifts are not affected. I think this is a reasonable limitation that would only serve to eliminate the most absurd shifts.
Josh Peller Any hitter that cannot beat a shift should be banned, just hit it to the open side. They will stop shifting if you do that. Extra innings rule is not baseball
Salvatore F. Salamone MLB leadership is the weakest and most over reactionary group of all the major sports. Teams shift? Learn to hit around it. Adapt or be replaced. 7 inning games? Never a good idea. Also, why would the networks that pay handsomely for the rights to broadcast want a shorter game? Extra inning ghost runner? The stupidest idea of all. The new rules are making MLB unwatchable.

Cathy Avanzo Deingenis

If I’m paying to see a baseball game, I personally don’t care how long the game lasts. For me, the longer the better!

Closing Of Published Comments And Final Thought

Due to space restrictions and page length, published comments are now closed.

I love it when I write something that stirs reader interest, and this one certainly has. As usual, there are no definitive answers, only the dialog that can bring them about.

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Steve Contursi
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.