Major League Baseball’s commissioner has an obsession, and it is changing the game that America loves.
Opinion by Benjamin Royer, Staff Writer
Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s commissioner receives sport fans’ jeering when he speaks, but his attempts to change the rules of the game show that the mockery is justified.
The office of the commissioner released new “experimental playing rules” to be used for the upcoming Minor League Baseball season. This move has been done to create a playground for Manfred’s outrageous concepts to be considered in a more serious environment than before.
“When I talk about changing the game, it’s not because I don’t love the game,” Manfred said in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’s because I do love the game.”
Loving the game of baseball does not mean that we should change the rules and concepts of America’s pastime. The shift rule is an outrageous ask in a line of portions of the game that Manfred is making changes to.
For the upcoming Double-A season, teams will “have a minimum of four players on the infield, each of whom must have both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt.”
Manfred’s want to change the game is not an easy out. Through the last 15 years of baseball, teams employed a new strategy called the shift.
The shift was a change in the way that the players positioned themselves in the infield or outfield. When a hitter is pulling the ball to the right or left side, the infielders will shift themselves to where the ball may be hit.
The shift creates a situation, wherein most instances, there would be three infielders on the right side of second base. The hope here is that the hitter will hit it to where the fielders are positioned for an easy out.
The shift evolves from year to year, like when the Dodgers used a five-man infield; bringing an outfielder into the infield to stop the run from crossing home with the bases loaded.
There has been hesitance for this strategy being a part of baseball. There could be an argument made that this limits the offensive production of the left-handed pull hitter.
It is not Manfred’s job to shift the rules of baseball to fix this strategy. Should it not be the job of the hitter to adjust to the changes occurring in the game? Teams pay players upwards of $30 million per year to put on their jerseys and step up to the plate. If changes are being made, the hitter must adjust and hit to the other side of the field.
Some players have made those adjustments. “If it’s wide open in that spot, I’m going to take it,” Kyle Schwarber, formally of the Chicago Cubs, said in an article with the Wall Street Journal. “With everyone shifting, it might open up something later on down the road.”
Players like Schwarber see the change and adjust. Some bunt to get on base and some slash down the left-field line. Either way, they are getting on base.
This attempted rule change will continue Manfred’s endeavor to change the structure and strategy of the game. There is no doubt currently that the commissioner’s office will find this successful and therefore move to implement this rule in the Majors for the near future.
Manfred will try to change the length of games, implement robotic umpires and expand the postseason to the dismay of the players association and umpires association, but banning the shift hurts the nature of the game more than all.
Statistical elements created a large change within the culture of baseball. Advanced statistics have been used within organizations for a long while, but a grouping of young and interested fans took an interest in this development of the game. The statistical revolution made a new way for fans to “love” the game.
Baseball strategy and statistics evolve naturally and sometimes you just have to let the sport do the work on its own.
Maybe it is time to make smaller changes to the game, but not in this way that ignores all parties involved, especially the fans who love to watch the game.