With Rob Manfred taking over the dusty throne of Bud Selig yesterday, he decided his first course of action would be to bewilder everyone and announce that he would be open to eliminating the defensive shift. He literally had the lowest bar to clear in replacing Selig by just looking like a relatively sane person, yet he managed to limbo right under that bar. Since it's his first day we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he knows more than us, even further than that we'll try to help him accomplish his ambitious goal. Manfred never said he KNEW how to eliminate the shift, just that he'd be open to it. So it's time to compile the best ideas to reverse the evolution of baseball so Mr. Manfred can leave his stamp on the game.
To kick it off is a solid suggestion from Twitter that involves putting a moat in the infield to avoid fielders wandering over to positions they shouldn't be in.
Oops. Gotta delay the game. The second baseman fell into the moat again.— Sara (@gidget) January 25, 2015
This idea kind of reminds me of what they do at Disney World where the animals in the Animal Kingdom safari APPEAR to be free to roam their environment, but are actually restricted in their movement by various moats and artificial rock formations. For example, the panda or in this case Pablo Sandoval would seem to be free to slide over to short right field, but would actually be unable to thanks to some bushes hiding a eight foot moat. This has potential, don't sleep on it.
Solutions that don't involve digging ditches in every major league stadium might be more cost-effective, which is where the idea of an iron rod attached to each infielder's hip gains some traction. An item like this would be linked to the players' belts, keeping them all a predetermined distance from each other. Third baseman wants to slide over and play in right center field? Then the whole infield either has to flip around or the first baseman will be forced to sit in the right field bleachers. This kills the shift.
An even easier option to implement is placing two outlines of footprints in the infield dirt where each infielder is forced to stand and then only allowing them to move when the ball has been hit. This would eliminate the shift while also emphasizing the importance of range for infielders, with players no longer aided by fancy scouting reports or positional adjustments. Obviously we have to be a little forward-thinking here, so in a late game situation the footprints could be moved closer to the plate or to the lines depending on what makes the most sense.
Another solution to kill the shift would be to have zones for each infielder to stand in that decide how many outs there are in the inning. It would look similar to something like this, but on a baseball field. Everyone standing in the correct zones? Three outs in the inning. A first basemen playing close to second against a righty pull hitter? That's in a less traditional zone which would increase the number of outs in the inning to four. Hey smart teams, have fun getting five outs with your silly shift!
With all these #fancy defensive metrics these days, wouldn't it be easier to just financially reward players who refuse to shift? FanGraphs could start tracking players who remain in their traditional defensive positions over the course of the season, then Major League Baseball could distribute some revenue sharing money to the players who were willing to fight for the integrity of the game. That way, Manfred could still appeal to the new-age fans by saying the word "FanGraphs", while also killing any sort of advanced baseball thinking.
Fortunately though, I've saved the best option for last. Major League Baseball could simply TELL the players not to shift. It's weird that this solution hasn't already been implemented since it seems fairly fool proof. I'm also surprised Bud Selig didn't tell Manfred this suggestion before leaving office because you would think after a decade as Commissioner he would know best that the players wouldn't try to circumvent the clearly stated rules. The players aren't going to go against what they're told to do, especially if it's in the rule book. These guys won't cheat, I'm sure of it.
Unfortunately time is running out for Rob Manfred to decide how to kill this shift virus. Spring Training is almost here and the sport's future is on the line:
I have friends who don't watch baseball. I ask why. They always say, "Sometimes a team puts an extra fielder on one side of the field."— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) January 25, 2015