Joe Torre spent a year in the league office of Major League Baseball, handing out discipline to players, dealing with postponements in the playoffs and pretending to supervise umpires while really doing nothing to fix bad umpiring all. Then he quit to try to buy the Dodgers.
That didn’t work and, Major League Baseball just announced, Torre is back in the fold:
Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced today that Joe Torre has rejoined Major League Baseball as Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations … Torre originally joined Major League Baseball in February of 2011, overseeing areas that include Major League Operations, Umpiring, On-Field Operations and On-Field Discipline. In the capacity to which he is returning, Torre serves as the Office of the Commissioner’s primary liaison to the general managers and field managers of the 30 Major League Clubs regarding all baseball and on-field matters.
I guess it’s a different job than his old one. But he’s still probably gonna be mad when he gets back to his office and finds out that, right after he left, someone took his stapler, his desk chair and that ergonomic keyboard that he really had to pull some strings to get.
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.