Carlos Santana is going to be a big fan of Rob Manfred.
In an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech, one of Manfred’s first suggestions as commissioner is to eliminate defensive shifts.
Manfred connects this suggestion to the idea of a pitch clock, but it’s a major leap from one to the other in my opinion.
The addition of an actual pitch clock would just be a formal way of enforcing a long-standing rule on the time between pitches. The rule book already states that “the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call Ball.”
And while the rule is rarely enforced, we’ve seen it happen. In 2007, the notoriously slow Rafael Betancourt was called for a ball for taking too long between pitches.
Eliminating defensive shifts would require a significant addition to the rule book. And it would eliminate long-standing practices of moving defenders around.
Minor shifts, such as the outfielders shading lefties towards right field, would probably still be allowed. But while major shifts are far more common now, they date back to when it was commonly referred to as the The Boudreau Shift, referring to the way Indians manager Lou Boudreau sometimes positioned his infielders against Ted Williams.
Other situational shifts, such as bringing in a fifth infielder to stand over second base when the winning run is on third with less than two outs, have also been used for decades.
Hopefully this was just an inexperienced commissioner speaking without thinking, rather than an idea he actually has in the works. Bud Selig was widely regarded as one of the most successful commissioners is all of sports for his forward thinking off the field, but he – and most commissioners before him – rarely meddled with the one sport that has remained almost entirely unchanged on the field for over a century.