Rob Manfred Believes Rules Will Return to ‘Status Quo’ for 2021, Would Like to Limit Shift

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s unceasing attack on the foundation of baseball’s sanctity has had purists and progressives alike clutching their pearls for nearly six years, but there is a little hope for a return to quasi-normalcy next season. Because the league and players union failed to reach an agreement on the implementation of the 2020 season, all of the rules changes in place will be gone in 2021.

Or at least they will be as things currently stand. Manfred joined the Dan Patrick Show Friday to discuss, among other things, what rules will continue into next season and beyond.

“I think in all likelihood,” Manfred said, “we will return — and I think all of the COVID-related rule changes, right, and in that bucket it’s the extra-inning rule, the 7-inning doubleheaders, the DH in the National League — those rules, uh, we will return to the status quo absent an agreement with the players.”

The patron saint of pace-of-play went on to tout the positive reviews he says the league received on the rule that puts a man on second base to start each half-inning in extras. Beat writers probably liked it because it meant getting home quicker or not missing a flight, though not nearly as many of them were traveling so that might not have mattered. All I know is I didn’t see a single tweet from Jesse Rogers about having his travel plans screwed up by a long game.

“With respect to the rest of the rules, I haven’t really made my mind up as to which ones we might want to consider keeping,” the commissioner explained. “What I have said is I think the extra-inning rule within the game — players, owners — a lot of people like that rule.

“It got some positive press in the media, I think people appreciate the strategy associated with the rule and kinda the finality in terms of when the game’s gonna end.”

Manfred also got down on some other potential rule changes, among them banning or limiting defensive shifts. Once more of a novelty, shifts have become de rigueur as teams scheme against the tendencies of pull hitters. Lefties are particularly at risk of facing shifts, which reduce offensive production and hamper that sweet, sweet PoP the league office wants to promote.

“A lot of people feel that the extreme shifting that you’re talking about has changed the game in ways that are not positive and it remains a really hot topic in terms of conversation,” Manfred said.

This seems to be one of those gray areas when it comes to the rules, and it’s not necessarily divided along the same lines as other rules like the DH. Fans are torn between a socialist view of wanting hitters to face a fair situation and a more libertarian ideal that allows the defense to do whatever the hell it pleases.

I’m an offensive guy — take that how you like — so I fall firmly in the camp of limiting the shift. Whether it’s saying all infielders have to be in the dirt or saying their must be two infielders on either side of second base, I do not like the idea of seeing a rover out in the shallow outfield and robbing what should have been a clean single. Not only does it hose the hitter, it’s super-anticlimactic.

Ted Williams used to say the best way to beat the shift was to hit over it or through it, but that doesn’t matter if the shifted player is sitting well back of the dirt. The batter did everything right and he still gets hosed. And for those who say he could just bunt to beat it, I say “Buck funting.”

And the thing is, I guarantee you almost no one would notice if the shift was banned. I mean, yeah, we’d all be aware because they’d tell us, but nobody moves up to the edge of their seat because the shift is being put on. You think anyone would see Anthony Rizzo lace a fastball past the second baseman and then comment that it wouldn’t have been a hit had the defense been allowed to stack an extra player on the right side?

Hell to the no.

I’ve leveled my fair share of criticism at Manfred and I’ll continue to do so as long as I believe his interests lie more with how much money MLB makes at the expense of the game itself. When it comes to these “new” rules, though, I can’t really find a whole lot of fault. The extra-innings deal is a little goofy and contrived, so maybe they should just load the bases to start the 10th. Scoring is almost guaranteed and you could get some really wild outcomes. RIP, ERA.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go throw some steaks on the grill. Please excuse any typos, I didn’t bother to edit this prior to publishing.

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