Last week we heard how, once again, Mets manager Terry Collins is all bent out of shape about the fact that his shortstop, Ruben Tejada, didn’t report to camp early. Via the New York Times we learn that, over the weekend, Tejada (a) reported on time; and (b) still got chewed out about it by Collins, who had a “one-way conversation” with him.
And of course Collins won’t let it go:
“I told him the importance of what it meant to be here and be a part of this team and what an impact it would have made on his teammates,” said Collins, who has insisted for days that he was disappointed, not angry. “He’s such a good kid, and he was very upset to think he messed up.”
“To think he messed up.” Only thing making him think that, Terry, is you, as you hold him to different standards than that to which just about every other manager in baseball holds their players.
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.