When he replaced Bud Selig to become the new the commissioner of Major League Baseball in 2015, Rob Manfred promised changes. And while he's followed through on many of those changes, none have been as groundbreaking--or as preposterous--as the one that he's currently proposing.
Already the father of the pitch clock and the mound visit limit, Manfred has a crazy new proposal that would limit defensive shifts that teams could put in place, and he may have the ammunition to get it passed.
Shifts have been an essential part of the analytics era of baseball, and their neutralization of pull hitters has seen hitting statistics drop dramatically. Last year's league-wide batting average was .248, the lowest in almost 40 years, and Manfred believes that the way to correct it is to limit the shifts that teams can implement in a game.
Many forward-thinking baseball fans are, understandably, not fans of the proposed changes.
I am becoming very frustrated with Rob Manfred. Defenses get nine guys to create outs - and should be able to position them where they like. This is ridiculous.— Kent Sterling (@KentSterling) December 6, 2018
And they're right to be annoyed. Manfred's desire to limit shifts comes from a sincere place--a desire to make the game fair again for hitters who've been completely neutralized by the shift. But, the key thing to realize is that it's not his responsibility, nor his place, to do that.
It's been supremely frustrating to see left-handed hitters face extreme shifts nearly every at-bat, yet almost never take advantage of the gaping hole on the left side. It's on them to adjust, and while the fact they haven't is downright preposterous, taking the game back to an archaic form limits any possible progress.
Imagine being Ryan Howard hearing this stuff about MLB possibly banning the shift. Would be like if the government erased all student loans the year after you finally paid yours off.— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) December 5, 2018
Like the Wildcat in the NFL and the triangle offense in basketball, any new strategy only lasts until the opponent finds a way to counter it. Banning the shift would be waving the white flag and saying that MLB hitters aren't creative enough to come up with a solution on their own--and that's a worse look, if you ask me.