Updated: Aug 9
I think it's safe to say that we're entering the best time of the year for sports fans. With March Madness coming to a close - where we've been spoiled with crazy upsets and a handful of buzzer-beaters - it's finally getting nice out around the country, which means baseball season's in full swing. With the first series finishing up this weekend, I couldn't help but notice some of the talks going on around the league while watching, which mainly focus on rule changes in order to improve the game of baseball.
In terms of rules, I feel like I'm pretty stuck in my ways for a lot of what we've all talked about over the years. I definitely see the reason for some quality of life changes in the MLB. For example, the universal DH is a quality of life change that I can get down with. In my mind, the benefit of putting a pitcher at the plate, or on the bases just doesn't add up to the potential cost of having them injured while in a role that isn't the reason they get paid the big bucks. To play devils advocate, while what I said before is definitely true, as a fan, part of me enjoys interleague play and specifically seeing how AL teams adapt when they're playing an NL style of ball. In my mind, it adds weird intricacies, pinch hitters, and other facets you wouldn't think about. I would hate to see pitchers not bat - outside of Ohtani - just because I'm a boomer in that regard, but it's a change that definitely needs to happen.
With those topics covered, one piece of baseball that I can't get down with is the shift. If I were Rob Manfred, I seriously would've banned the shift a LONG time ago. As a longtime fan of baseball, I never really remember the shift being such a monumentally huge problem. It wasn't until like 2016ish maybe - which I realize now isn't really that recent - that the shift started getting abused to near ridiculous levels. Sabermetrics are cool and all - I think everybody loves all the ridiculous stats that get shoved in our face just because technology's come such a long way - but in terms of bettering the game, I really don't think it helps. Adding to the point, there's a ton of videos you can see on YouTube of the shift, here's one full of routine base hits that're pretty much ruined by insane defensive schemes, infielders in the outfield, and huge holes left in opposite field.
Playing my whole life, baseball's a 'feel' sport, where you sort of adapt to the game as its played, and I really don't think introducing probability to such a game belongs. If you're watching on TV, you wouldn't notice the amount of times the shift is actually used in game since you're looking over the pitchers shoulder for like 95% of the broadcast, but when you actually go to an MLB stadium and watch - depending on when COVID's gonna chill tf out - it's actually mind blowing the amount of times you'll see some sort of variant of the shift. In my mind it's ruined baseball, and is in no way, shape, or form the way in which baseball was intended to be played. Off the top of my head, I'm not positive on a definite fix as 'having X amount of players touch dirt' might lead itself to some crazy loopholes in certain situations. Regardless, I'm a huge believer on playing the game the way it's been played by everyone before us, and I really think this ridiculous one-off scheme used as a counter to David Ortiz has gone too far.
I'll leave you with this great discussion between ESPN's Mike Greenberg and Alex Rodriguez discussing this idea on Greenberg's podcast #Greeny.