Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Former big-league manager Jim Leyland may have at least part of a solution for one of baseball's hot-button issues: extreme defensive shifting.
Leyland, who won 1,769 games as a big-league manager for four teams, isn't a fan of shifts. If he had his way, the strategy would be banned and teams would play defense more straightaway.
Barring that, Leyland suggests that shifting be limited so fielders aren't moving around the infield and outfield between pitches.
"If they don't get rid of it, which I wish they would, I think they should modify it," Leyland said Thursday before playing a round of golf at the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation Annual Golf and Tennis Classic at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. The tournament seeks to raise money for Torre's foundation.
"I've talked to some people about this -- I think wherever you start, that's where you have to stay. If you want to put a guy in short right field, you can start him there. But once a pitch is thrown, you can't take a guy from the third-base side and put him out there.
"Pick your poison, if you're the manager, before you start the at-bat."
Every brawny left-handed slugger, sick of losing potential hits belted into the shift on the right side of the infield, probably would agree with Leyland, who managed for 22 years, won the 1997 World Series with the then-Florida Marlins and added two American League pennants in Detroit.
But not everyone believes shifting should be banned, including the man whose Cardinals beat Leyland's Tigers in the 2006 World Series.
Tony La Russa, who also teed off at Torre's tournament, thinks hitters should learn to combat the shift themselves and force fielders to go back to the defensive drawing board. Hit the other way. Bunt. Make the defense adjust. Let baseball evolve by itself without adding regulations.
"I think you teach how to beat the shift and pretty soon they've got to play you honest," said La Russa, who won the World Series three times as a manager. "Teach them (hitters) to beat it and pretty soon they (defenses) can't do it.
Leyland says shifting has been around "longer than people think. It's not new - it's to an extreme more than it was."
It's become a topic for debate ever since Commissioner Rob Manfred suggested in his first interview in office in January of 2015. MLB's competition committee reportedly has discussed what to do about shifts, too.
Some fans are dismayed when their favorite player hits a hard liner toward center only to see it become a routine play because the shortstop was shifted to play near the second-base bag. Some fans vent on social media, making the shift a regular baseball discussion point, along with whether both leagues should have the designated hitter.
Leyland's got a take on that, too. And another suggestion.
"I'm all for the DH in both leagues," Leyland said. "I think we should have the same rules in both leagues. We're the one sport that has different rules.
"If you don't want to be the same in both leagues, then they should flip flop them. When the American League goes to an NL park, use a DH. When the NL comes to the AL, don't use it. Let the AL fans see NL baseball, let the NL fans see AL baseball."