Why Banning The Shift Is The Best Thing Baseball Could've Done

Now that baseball is planning on banning the shift for what's left of the 2022 season, articles bashing the move are all over the web. I've personally defended the shift remaining in baseball, but now that I've taken some time to think this out, it's clear the shift has no business in this game.

And don't worry, I'll explain exactly why the game will be better off.

MLB owners and the union ultimately decided that the shift was compromising the integrity of the sport. They both thought the defensive strategy of a shift was far too overpowering and that offenses weren't going to be able to exploit it. Technically, they're wrong because it's always physically possible to defeat a defensive coverage -- but is 'hitting it where they ain't' plausible? Would it be realistic for hitters to hit 100-mile-an-hour fastballs the other way with consistency? It's a question the owners and players association had to weigh when they voted on this issue.

Old school fans of baseball seem to be echoing the same talking point: They used to go the other way, so we should be able to ask players to do the same today.

It's an explanation used often, however it's not thought out whatsoever and here's why: former MLB players were never asked to go the other way in the majority of their plate appearances. Sure, there were players like Tony Gwynn or Derek Jeter who often sprayed baseballs the other way, but by no means were they forced. The most any player in the past was asked to do was make "situational outs" or "good outs" that generally required a player late in game to slap a ball the other way. They rarely got it done, yet were praised when they did. These were desperate tactics utilized only at desperate times...the 9th inning of big games.

We're suddenly at a place in baseball where hitters are being asked by the fans to slap the ball the other way at nearly ever at-bat. Players have shown when you ask them to do something they weren't developed to do, they'll fail. Athletes aren't worse all of a sudden, or less skilled -- they're constantly being told to go away from their strengths to slap a single the other way when this was never asked of previous generations. That mission of slapping turd singles the other way, successful or not, is objectively boring to watch. Seeing Joey Gallo bunt a single to third base in the fifth inning is not enjoyable baseball...to anyone.

"But they shifted Ted Williams?!"

First off, no they didn't. Shifting on a player a few times a year over 70 years ago isn't worth a comparison to today's game. Some of the best hitters in this sport have six outfielders standing in the outfield and some fans are pretending they'd watch the game more if Bryce Harper bunted more to make that go away. Reality is that the defense would be thrilled to see Bryce Harper give up his power bat for four bleeder hits in the infield.

And the talking point that's most used is that shifting is a strategy. Is it? Is deploying a shift you're allowed to utilize with 100 percent efficiency considered a strategy and the "strategy" to beat it involves skill? One side (the defense) gets to choose to be strategic on one end while the hitters have to perform? That sounds a lot like a lack of balance. But what's most compelling here is that old school ballplayers never knew shifting was a strategy. Had they known this could be used with such effectiveness, they'd have deployed it years ago. And don't blame players or team executives for asking the whole team to stand in right field -- it's what works, no matter how displeasing it is to the eye. Eventually it had to go away though.

Long story short, baseball is in better hands when fielders are standing in proper places. It's the way the game was played, and transforming the sport to this magnitude looks like a gimmick where the difficulty of the solutions are rarely considered. Banning the shift will ultimately sound bad at the start, but it'll be a positive in a decade.

Written by
Gary Sheffield Jr is the son of should-be MLB Hall of Famer, Gary Sheffield. He covers basketball and baseball for OutKick.com, chats with the Purple and Gold faithful on LakersNation, and shitposts on Twitter. You can follow him at GarySheffieldJr