A lot of you responded to the Peter Gammons news yesterday by saying something like “Good! Now that Boston homer can do his Boston homer stuff!” Well, you’re not 100% wrong. Gammons, speaking to Chad Finn of the Boston Globe:
“A big part of it is that I just want to be home more . . . it’s very much a lifestyle thing . . . I grew up a New Englander, and I want to be part of my hometown. I
still live in Boston. I’m a part of my community, and I want to
continue to be part of my community.”
Presumably he’ll get the Boston stuff out of his system with the NESN part of his new life and will continue to be more of a generalist at MLB.com and MLB Network. Oh, and about those suggestions that ESPN-fatigue had something to do with it?
“A lot of people said to me today, ‘You know, you must have negative
feelings about ESPN.’ That’s so far from the reality. Some of the best friends I have ever had are there. The people from
ESPN were tremendous, and I truly loved working with them.'”
Gammons is a classy guy so he’d say that even if he left in a storm of acrimony, but I’ve heard nothing since yesterday to suggest he isn’t being straight up here.
The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.
The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.
In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.
Most of the time anyway.
Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:
One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.
The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.