New commissioner Rob Manfred open to defensive-shift ban

·Yahoo Sports Contributor
Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred speak with the media during a news conference at the Major League Baseball owners meeting, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, in Phoenix. Manfred succeeds Bud Selig when he retires later this month. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

New baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has been in office a little more than 12 hours and he's already making some interesting waves. In an interview that aired on ESPN on Sunday morning, Manfred made it clear that examining the pace of the game is first on his list of priorities, but not far behind will be finding ways to "inject additional offense into the game."

Without being prompted for an example, Manfred specifically mentioned he'd be open to pursuing the elimination of defensive shifts, which he says give the defensive team a competitive advantage.

Defensive shifting is something we've seen implemented more and more in recent years as teams begin to shift — pun most certainly intended — to more sabermetric based research. It's more regularly reserved for strict pull hitters, which in most cases could be identified without a ton of research, but we're also seeing more creative — and even extreme — uses of defensive positioning that go beyond such tendencies. In some ways, it has become as important as pitch selection, which is sometimes influenced by positioning.

How Manfred would go about proposing the change and what his suggested guidelines would be are unclear. He'd almost have to create a specific zone that each defender has to stay within when each pitch is delivered. If that's the case, does that mean we'd see more lines drawn on the field, or is it up to umpire discretion? Can a defender creep in anticipating a bunt, or is that unfair? We'd be opening up a whole new can of worms here.  

Those questions aside, Yahoo's Jeff Passan has learned that key figures within the game, including general managers who believe in sabermetrics, are actually open to such changes. 

So perhaps the potential change has traction, but we're not entirely sure it's a change fans would get behind. Would more offense be great? Of course it would. Most would agree to that. But fans also enjoy the strategy that goes into the game, and eliminating something like the shift takes away one layer of discussion and second-guessing that we all like to engage in.

Which side of the argument are you on? Do you think the shift belongs in baseball, or would you like to see it banned?

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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