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Did you know…
The Impossible Dream Boston Red Sox of 1967 had a total payroll of $825,000 . . .
Trevor Bauer’s administrative leave has been extended to April 16 . . .
The Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, also want to buy London’s Chelea Football Club . . .
In his three years at the Red Sox helm, Alex Cora’s club is 284-202 . . .
Tampa Bay may not be splashy but managed to win consecutive AL East crowns two years in a row . . .
New York Yankees pilot Aaron Boone says the Blue Jays have “as formidable a lineup as you’re going to see.” . . .
The first female manager in Organized Ball, Rachel Balkovec, missed the home opener of her Tampa Tarpons after she was struck in the face by a batted ball.
Why I Want To Outlaw ‘The Shift’
By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.
I never thought this would be the case. I never thought I'd be for such a radical new rule.
But I am.
Because the new rule outlawing the shift (for 2023) makes sense.
The shift came into vogue a good amount of years ago. I remember saying at the time that good hitters will learn how to hit against the shift. As that didn't happen, I got frustrated with players like Mark Teixeira who continually hit into the shift and saw his production plummet. "Just hit the other way," I'd say.
He said he couldn't.
I found that excuse lame. "A good professional should learn to adapt," I'd say.
Year-after-year the shift has been used more and more.
I keep waiting for the good hitters to find a way to beat the shift.
I have determined they can't, or, even if they can, that it's just not worth it.
It's easy for us, at a distance, to state what big-leaguers can do. Or should do. We think certain things are easier than they look - like hitting the other way, against the shift. Things like this are just not as simple as we might think.
I have been spending a lot of time with a former big-leaguer. He shared the story of how he once started to try to hit home runs. To do this, he changed his swing. It messed him up completely. It put him into a slump unlike anything he had ever experienced. It was s lump he couldn’t break out of because new habits formed and the player was lost, completely. One little change made a huge difference.
That is essentially what Mark Teixeira was saying all those years ago. It's just not that easy, against big league pitchers, to change one's approach to hitting. In fact, for many ballplayers, it can’t be done.
Each year teams use the shift more and more - because it works. They use it because big league hitters, the greatest batters in the world, haven't been able to hit consistently against it. (If they could, teams wouldn’t use the shift as often.)
Big-league managers and coaches and analysts have also determined that for some players, the Mark Teixeira types and the Joey Gallo types, it doesn't even make sense for them to try to beat the shift. These players are told to just swing hard and go for the fences.
The result is, most often, what I'll call Four Outcome Baseball: a walk, a strikeout, an out of any other kind, or a home run.
I hate to say this, but home runs, in this regard, are boring. Watching all-or-nothing guys get all, or nothing, isn't fun to watch. It doesn't make baseball compelling.
Four Outcome Baseball is boring.
A guy going one for ten with a homer as the one hit is awful baseball to watch.
This approach is the direct result of the shift.
This is why the shift needs to be outlawed.
But, there's another reason as well:
The beauty and the natural flow of the game.
A line drive to right field over the head of the second baseman should be a hit. That is the result of a good swing on a pitched ball - a line drive. This is how players are supposed to swing. It is part of baseball's natural order.
"Line drive, base hit, right field."
With the shift, this has become, "Line drive, line out to the second baseman in shallow right."
A line drive up the middle should also be a single. This is the way good hitters are taught to hit. Now we see that the perfect result of a good swing resulting in a lineout to the shortstop.
The shift has radically changed the way the game is played and the natural order of how the game is played, but also how it's watched at home.
When the batter does the right thing, the right thing, a base hit, should most often result. That's not happening now.
The same also rings true for well-placed and hard-hit ground balls. The ground ball through the hole between second and first should be a hit. Today's it is a ground out.
None of this makes the game better.
Underscoring this is the fact that when a player beats the shift, it's often (outside of the home run) when he swings poorly and hits the ball the other way accidently. This also disrupts baseball's natural order. We see the player doing the correct thing and getting out and others being rewarded with hits (often doubles) by hitting weak ground balls the other way against the shift - not by design, but by accident.
The result of all of this is a poor product on the field. It’s not as fun for me to watch bad baseball being rewarded and good baseball being penalized.
I am a traditionalist. I don't like when Baseball makes rule changes for the sake of making rule changes. I dislike seven inning double headers and ghost runners. I'm not for bigger bases or moving the pitcher's mound back. I’m not a big fan of expanded playoffs.
But, even though it seems backwards, I believe that outlawing the shift and requiring the position players to play where they traditionally have played is actually a way to bring baseball back to its natural order. It's the traditionalist in me that wants the shortstop to play on the left side of second base. It's the traditionalist in me that doesn't want to see infielders lining up in the outfield.
Outlawing the shift actually restore baseball to the way I like seeing it played with well-placed batted balls being hits rather than outs.
It's ironic, but this new modern rule will help bring back the traditional game.
Dr. Paul Semendinger runs Start Spreading the News, one of the best Yankees sites out there. He also hosts the Start Spreading the News Podcast on the North East Streaming Sports Network. Paul mis the author of The Least Among Them and Scattering the Ashes. If you haven't read them yet, what are you waiting for? Paul is a pitcher in two baseball leagues and he wonders why the Yankees still haven't signed him. (There's always tomorrow.)
Reflections Upon Covering the Yankee Opener Yesterday
By Dan Schlossberg
It wasn’t exactly my first rodeo. Nor do I think it will be my last.
But when I got official approval of credentials for the Yankee opener Friday, I was ecstatic — especially since they’re hosting the arch-rival Boston Red Sox in the Bronx.
Not that I’m a Yankee fan, or even a New York fan, but just a baseball fan. And a long-suffering one who remembers The Good Old Days when there were two leagues, eight teams per league, no DH, no inter-league play, no wild-card winners, no pitch clocks, no work stoppages, and no million-dollar crybabies.
I began my baseball writing career in 1969 immediately after graduating with a journalism degree from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. It’s been a wild ride since but 40 books and thousands of articles later, the memories are priceless.
And they begin anew on Opening Day. Every year.
The drive from New Jersey over the George Washington Bridge is never easy. Do I leave early and hit rush-hour traffic or leave later and run into Yankee traffic? I picked a happy medium — only to find the familiar University Avenue route had been re-worked with bus lanes, no-right-turn signs, and other obstacles.
But then I ran into Red Sox announcer Dennis Eckersley, the Hall of Fame pitcher, on the street and knew all was right with the world.
Credential pick-up was seemless and quick and I was thrilled with my all-access credential. Once in the press box, I picked out an unassigned seat, did some writing (including this article) on my laptop, and schmoozed with media friends Marty Appel, Ed Randall, and Julio Pabon and Nicole Perez of Latino Sports. Then I took a lunch break in the media dining room.
With no vested interest in either team, the highlights of my idea both occurred before the game started: a Ukrainian girl sang her national anthem and long-time Yankee fan Billy Crystal, star of ‘61,’ threw out the first ball.
I even learned that Bobby Richardson, who collected a record dozen runs batted in during the 1960 World Series, never led his league in runs scored — amazing for a leadoff man hitting ahead of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Yogi Berra. Thanks to Marty Appel for that one, which I will use in my forthcoming ‘Baseball Zeroes’ book.
Opening Day 2022 also had a sad element: my lifelong friend Ed Lucas was not there. Before he became too ill to attend, Ed attended 65 consecutive Yankee Stadium openers — a record even the late “Voice of the Yankees” Bob Shepherd couldn’t challenge. Since last year, Ed passed away. He and his sense of humor, not to mention his knowledge of baseball, are sorely missed.
Also missed was the usual build-up to Opening Day. Rob Manfred’s nuclear winter — the 99-day lockout — killed the winter meetings, Hot Stove League, and most of spring training, resulting in a rush to get ready that may yet rear its ugly head.
But at least there’s a new labor agreement that should keep things percolating another five years (hopefully without the designated runner in extra innings). We’ll just have to live with the residue of too many playoff teams, too many broadcast networks, and not enough decent print outlets.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is national baseball writer for forbes.com and contributor to Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and many other print and broadcast outlets. Also a public speaker on baseball, Dan can be contacted via email@example.com. His website is www.DanSchlossberg.net.
“Steve Cohen’s fellow owners established a new, fourth luxury-tax threshold at $290 million specifically designed to try to put a harness on Cohen, which is like trying to contain a tidal wave. The Wilpons are fading in the rear view mirror with each dollar invested. Cohen, if anything, is inhabiting George Steinbrenner 2.0.”
–-Joel Sherman in The New York Post
Jorge Soler’s parents, wife, and children live in Miami, a city steeped in Cuban culture he’ll appreciate as a new member of the Marlins . . .
Josh Donaldson, the oldest Yankee at age 36, played 91 games at third last year and 34 others as designated hitter, all for Minnesota . . .
The Yankee payroll of $240 million is its highest ever . . .
The Chicago Cubs spent $212,832,000 on 12 signings, including Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly, Mychal Givens, Yan Gomes, and Japanese import Seiya Suzuki . . .
Fernando Tatis, Jr. was the first player to hit 30 homers and steal 20 bases in his first 100 games – and is the only man in the game’s history with at least 40 homers, 100 RBI, and 20 steals in his first 162 games.
The only players to hit .300 with 300 homers and 200 steals were Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, George Brett, and Larry Walker . . .
The first case of baseball arbitration involved future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter in 1974.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.