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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

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

17 Comments

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  1. What does your dad think? lol. Hold on I’m sure he’s calling him right now and will be adding his response in an updated version of the blog in a bit. Come on man!

  2. What they should do is a bigger penalty for a strike out. Make it 2 outs, or something. More contact, more balls in play, better game. This would obviously never happen but many thought banning the shift wouldn’t either

  3. Totally agree with your points here. I have advocated banning the shift for years. I assume the SS will be standing behind 2nd, just the left of the bag. The SS will be like a runner waiting for the pitch to be delivered and move over then. Still better than full shifts.

    What a boon for lefties. Maybe Bellinger can back to his old self without the short right fielder, in front of the deep right fielder.

  4. I tend to be “old school” when it comes to tinkering with “The Game” … BUT … I am FOR legislating The Shift …. “Two infielders on either side of 2nd base” … No restrictions re: placement of OFers. I am also FOR The Universal DH. Yes, I appreciate the strategy involved but I like Offense and 99% of pitchers simply are automatic Outs in MLB.
    .
    As for The Strike … I PREDICT the entire First Month will be CXL before it is settled. Very Sad!
    .

  5. The single biggest rule to enforce to make the game faster, and better for those watching, as well as playing, is for the umpire to rigidly enforce the 20 second rule. From the time the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher, they have 20 seconds to make the next pitch. For decades, games routinely lasted only 2 hours, maybe 2:20, as the pace of the action was pretty quick. When Tony LaRussa managed the Oakland As in the late 80’s, his constant pitching changes, which would then be labeled “long relief”, or “specialty” relievers, a particular righty or lefty coming in to pitch to just one batter, would be a drag on the action, cause fielders to become lackadaisical, and fans to become flat out bored. For 25 years, games have now checked in at a nearly 3 hour clip. And forget about the post season, where some games now push the 4 hour mark. When it gets to taking nearly a fucking minute in some cases, for a pitch to be thrown, with the idiosyncracies of pitcher and batter between every pitch being acted out, that is just too much. Means you get 2 seconds of actual game activity spread out over nearly 2 minutes of real time. If baseball was consistently a 2 hour affair again, the TV ratings would go up and it would make for a better overall product.

    • Don’t forget The Nomar Rule …. Nomar Garciaparra taking 30 seconds between Each Pitch to readjust his batting gloves. “Eliminating batting gloves” could save an hour/game. Ted, Stan, Ty, Babe et al did not need batting gloves…

    • Good points. I coached HS baseball for eleven years a while back and our counties had an in season tournament made up of the 10 highest (at the time) ranked teams in southern NJ. A number of speed up rules were implemented and the 7 inning games lasted just a shade over an hour. It was fantastic. I always wished these rules would have been made part of regular season games.

  6. Another stupid rule trying to prop up a product that is unwatchable, which i haven’t for a few years now. Looking at MLB’s World Series ratings going back to when the DH came in. It is Less than half, From over 34 million to just over 13 million in 2019. Seeing some turd with a .200 batting average (back in the day he would be playing in some minor league in North Dakota) strike out for the 200 time with men i scoring position because all he knows is “me swing hard” is not only me but 20 million people turn this mess off. using your mentality, in basketball, players shouldn’t play defense because their skills are at making baskets, so we should outlaw that too. oh but wait in football defenses shouldn’t be able to blitz because the linemen skills are only run blockers not pass block. Give me a team of Tony Gwynn or Derek Jeter’s and watch them trying to turn a single into a double than watch 9 players strike out swinging for the fence.

    • I don’t even understand the point he’s trying to make. He’s disagreeing w/ GSJ about banning the shift. The shift hinders offense which yields low scoring, boring games. Shifts have become more prevalent over time while ratings have continued to dip. Not necessarily a direct correlation but it’s not helping ratings. Pitching has improved a lot more than batting over the last 2 decades and the shift gives the pitchers an even greater advantage. And you want to talk about NFL not banning blitzes, I guess. The NFL has implemented a lot of rules to favor and protect the offense.

      And honestly, I’d be fine w/ 120 – 7 inning games for the regular season and 9 innings for post season (if they can’t figure out a way to speed up the gameplay).

  7. Echoing others here. I’m with banning the shift, but the main thing they need to address is speed of play. If there were only 4 channels on TV and no such thing as the internet, 3-4 hour games might survive, but with so many other options, no casual fan is sitting through that. 2-2.5 hour games would be a godsend.

    • I really like that while most of us are for banning the shift, our real concern is the pace of play. I really hope that MLB will take notice of consistent fan concerns, and take action to reduce the time between pitches, and get more balls in play.

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