Video: They shifted the heck out of Willie McCovey in 1969

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Recently there was talk from Rob Manfred and his media surrogates about how baseball should be worried about all of the defensive shifts and that, maybe, they should change the rules of baseball in order to outlaw them. Most of this talk is underscored with either an implicit or explicit concern about shifting being radical or different or that it somehow makes baseball a different game than it had always been. Perhaps, an unfair game to some hitters.

Others point out that shifting is, actually, not something new. Shifts may be employed at an unprecedented rate these days, but the concept of moving guys around on the field is not novel. The most famous example cited in this argument is Ted Williams, who was famously shifted upon by Lou Boudreau’s Cleveland Indians. Today an anonymous tipster hipped me to another victim of out-of-position infielders:Willie McCovey.

We have video! It comes in the course of the1969 Giants season retrospective below. That was the year McCovey hit 45 homers, drove in 126 and posted an OPS+ of 209, winning the MVP Award. The whole thing is interesting as a time capsule or, if you’re a Giants fan, as a history lesson. If you just want to watch the part about the shift, however, go to the 7:30 mark or so. Here’s a link to that point.

My favorite part of the video: when the narrator says “How do you beat a shift?” And then specifically says NOTHING about outlawing shifts. How novel.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.