While you may have been force-fed for the last twenty years that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees or even the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs are the greatest rivalries in baseball, we are well on our way to witnessing the greatest rivalry in baseball – MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred versus the fans of baseball.
After focusing on the pace of play since his arrival as commissioner in January of 2015, he has recently hinted at eliminating the defensive shift. Mind you, we just passed the 72nd anniversary of the Cleveland Indians and manager Lou Boudreau shifting against Ted Williams on July 14, 1946, but…now…in 2018, as more than 35,000 shifts have taken place in MLB this season, Manfred would like to change defensive shifts.
The lack of offense is the biggest issue for him and the competition committee. The same competition committee that wants to make a game go quicker for those who don’t enjoy watching a lengthy game, want to make it harder for teams to get outs by eliminating the defensive shift, which will make the game longer!
Nevermind the talented, brilliant minds who have utilized statistical analysis for all 30 MLB franchises to help them gain an advantage over the competition, some obviously better than others, we are now at the mercy of those who don’t know what they want for the game of baseball, as they seem to be wavering between what is happening in the seats and what is happening on the field, not knowing the best way to truly make the game more favorable for the fans or the players.
If teams can’t shift, they’ll find new ways to dominate, before that is outlawed. Imagine if the NBA banned seven-footers because their players can’t shoot over them…Maybe MLB teams will find more pitchers who miss bats than they already have, since the shift won’t matter when players can’t put the ball in play:
MLB is on pace for fewer than 50 balls in play per game for the first time ever.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) July 11, 2018
As a longtime fan, it is hard to fathom baseball changing much. While I can get behind the designated hitter being a part of both leagues – it just doesn’t make sense that there are two different games going on, especially with roster structures come playoff and World Series time – there aren’t other parts of the games that need the major tweaking that Manfred seems to want. These include the mound visit limits that were implemented this season (thanks a lot, Willson Contreras), the possibility of starting extra innings with a runner on second base, and, now, forcing two infielders to be on each side of second base to eliminate that pesky shift.
But all of these changes to the game are just to make it shorter – outside of the shift – and it’s hard to understand why these changes are necessary.
I’m aware that many people now have an attention span that doesn’t outlast that of a goldfish, but, perhaps, they will be okay looking at skinny jeans at the mall and trying the latest avocado-infused craft beer instead of complaining about how long a baseball game is lasting…which they’re not watching half the time due to their focus on their $1,000 iPhones! For those people, the Facebook Watch recaps are wonderful. Why do people want a game to be shortened that they love? I love extra innings when I go to a game – it’s free baseball!
Maybe the issue isn’t the fans who love baseball – it’s MLB’s infatuation with the people who don’t love baseball…the people who they want to have as fans while losing their focus on the fans who are already in love with the game.
The battle is all wrong for Manfred. The players are happy because they have more money coming their way – unless you’re Bryce Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, who think that the shift isn’t fair as he continues to hit into it religiously. The owners have more money coming from revenue than they seem to be investing in their teams. It’s the fans who love the game who are losing the battle with the commissioner, who is focused on who isn’t in the seats more than who is, and who doesn’t like baseball more than those who do.
A game that has been around as long as baseball doesn’t need to change. Rob Manfred needs to change his focus.