It was not a pretty week in Yankees Universe. The Bronx Bombers only managed one win all week, going 1-4 since Monday. Two of the losses came at the hands of the recently departed Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners while the other two losses came at the hands of the pesky Tampa Bay Rays. I’ve already gone off on the Yankees uncanny lack of ability to play with the Rays, but it still gets me fired up.
You know what’s really bothering me though? It’s this stupid infield shift. It is killing some of our very own Yankees right in front of our eyes. The Bronx is Boiling, folks, and I need to blow some steam.
I’M TIRED OF THIS SHIFT
A lot has been made of the infield shift the last few years. This season it is being used at an all-time high rate. Where it used to be used against the elite power-pull hitters of the game, like the David Ortiz’s for example, it is seemingly being used against every left-handed power bat on the roster. Some people have gone so far as to say that the infield shift is killing the game.
I disagree. Baseball is a sport, and in all things competitive, your main objective is to find an edge. What managers have realized is that hitters in baseball have changed over the last decade or so. The natural hitters like Ichiro and Derek Jeter seem to be disappearing at a high rate as everyone appears to be concerned with becoming power hitters. After all, as Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine pointed out: chicks dig the long ball.
The infield shift is not killing baseball. It is these players, players making millions upon millions of dollars mind you, total unwillingness to adjust. Let’s think about it at the smallest level. As someone who both played and later coached high school basketball, the majority of ballers at the high school level are righties. The sad truth is that only the cream of the crop at that young level have developed the ability to go left and use their opposite hand with as much talent and precision as their right hand. You are coached to push the ball handler to the left and take advantage of a blatant weakness.
That is the same mentality as the infield shift. However, that right-handed 15-year-old point guard did one of two things. He or she quickly learned how to go left or they never saw the light of day playing above the Junior Varsity level. We are talking about grown men in baseball, men that are mega stars and gazillionaires based on their “talent”, yet show a complete inability to adjust to the shift.
Mark Teixeira won’t change. His stats have fallen off the mountain as he has gone from baseball’s premier first baseman to an injury-prone home run or nothing type of guy. It is because he won’t go to the opposite field. Remember a couple of years back when he discussed bunting in his frustration with the infield shift? His batting average on balls in play has dropped every year since his 2009 Yankee debut. That is due to the fact that nearly 80% of the balls he hits from the left side fall into one of the nine fielders’ gloves they put on the right side of the field waiting for him to hit it there. And he does. How do these elite superstars not figure out a way to go to the opposite field? I know and understand that it is no easy chore. I struggled with it mightily as a youngster in little league. The difference with me though was my baseball playing career ended after the ninth grade.
Brian McCann is the most recent recipient of increased use of the shift since joining the Yankees. He is making adjustments. McCann even impressed me last week against the Red Sox going to the opposite field three times for hits in the same game against the shift. But let’s not kid ourselves Yankees’ fans. The Yankees brought in B-Mac because of that short right field porch and his beautiful power swing that averaged almost 22 home runs per year in each of his 8 full seasons with the Braves. While McCann is adjusting and learning how to use the whole field, his power is dwindling. Even if McCann figures out how to get singles and beat the shift, the shift is still winning by taking away his power.
It’s just something that drives me bananas, when these superstars that get paid mounds of money to play a game they love can’t figure out a way to beat it. It reminds me of how Shaquille O’Neal could never hit a free throw, but he still dominated in every other aspect of the game. Teixeira seems to be getting his stroke back and McCann seems to be coming around. Until they can beat the shift consistently, you can be sure they will still see it over and over again. And it will keep them at bay, making talents like theirs half the player they could be.