On the one hand, this is good to hear. Commissioner Rob Manfred explains to the New York Times that, bad optics aside, putting the debt-ridden, two-time victim of Ponzi schemes in charge of baseball’s finance committee is not a problem because baseball’s finance committee does not actually handle investments. That’s another group altogether, so don’t worry about old Fred giving $50 million Baseball Bucks to some fraudster with a get-rich quick scheme.
On the other hand, the reason Wilpon is in charge of the finance committee is bound to make Mets fans want to tear their hair out. Here’s Manfred:
“The committee — the finance and compensation committee — really deals with two issues, principally: executive compensation, which he’s more than capable of dealing with, and a central office budget. Obviously, to be a successful businessman, you have to know how to budget . . . He understands how the budget process in baseball has worked, and he’s more than qualified to fill that role.”
Yes, Fred Wilpon knows how to budget. As indicated by the fact that his baseball team, which plays in the largest market in the country, currently has a payroll lower than that of the Minnesota Twins.
Rob Manfred created a ruckus yesterday when, among other things, he said that he’d be in favor of a rule which would limit or eliminate the use of defensive shifts.
This idea was first thrust into our consciousness last summer when Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci suggested it. I responded to the idea here. Short version: um, no.
Slightly less short version: the lack of offense in today’s game has many causes, most of which have nothing to do with defensive shifts. Mostly strikeouts. Defensive shifts cut down on singles. They do not stop doubles or triples or homers. You know, those things which are more effective at putting crooked numbers on the board. Also, shifts reward teams with athletic and versatile players who can (a) play great defense; and/or (b) eventually anyway, hit to all fields, making shifts counterproductive. I would think we’d want more athletic and versatile players and fewer lumbering sluggers who cry about it when they’re proven to be physically and mentally unable to hit the ball the other way once in a damn while.
Also, question: how is this even enforced? At what point is shading a guy in the direction in which he tends to hit the ball an illegal shift? A bright line about which side of the second base bag each infielder has to play? That could be problematic given that, for years, many, many shortstops have played certain hitters almost straight up behind the bag. Would we ban only extreme shifts? What are those? And, whatever answer you come up with about that, is this a judgment call we want umpires to be making?
More fundamentally, a rule to eliminate shifts goes against the very nature of baseball. A sport in which strategies and theories have always evolved over time. People thought Babe Ruth’s home run totals were unsporting in 1920 and taking away a key part of the game. Would the mindset which would eliminate shifts now have advocated for making over-the-fence homers automatic outs or partial runs in 1920?
In any event, there is a more detailed handling of it here, but my mind remains the same on the matter a few months later: changing the rules because of a recent change in which teams approach the game, rather than waiting for the game to evolve, as it always has, in the face of changes, is an unnecessary overreaction and shouldn’t be given serious consideration.
For years we’ve all heard the legend of how Wade Boggs once drank 64 beers on a cross-country team flight. Or was it 107? Or was it more? The point is, we’ve heard that story for a long time, and that story always seems to center on the same basic anecdote, growing larger, Bill Brasky-style, over the years.
I’ve always been a mildly skeptical of that. Not of the basics of the story — I’ve no reason to doubt that Boggs could put a lot of beer away — but certainly the number tossed out as that tale has grown taller on down the line. And part of me notices that the stories always involve that one incident. Maybe it was like a lot of things: something fun and quirky happened once and it has since has been blown out of proportion because, man, it’s a pretty good story!
But after reading David Laurila’s latest Sunday notes column, my skepticism is beginning to drop. Because we have a new data point on Boggs’ beer consumption!
Laurila interviews Brian Rose, a former Sox’ pitching prospect who later had a cup of coffee with the Devil Rays when Boggs was coaching for them. On a flight he was sitting next to Boggs and . . . well, go read Laurlia’s story for the details. But know that Boggs’ legend — whatever one might think of it — continues to grow.