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Commissoner Rob Manfred open to banning defensive shifts in the name of offense

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred turned heads his first day on the job by declaring that he'd be open to banning the defensive shifts that have become commonplace in the game. In the interview with Karl Ravech, Manfred says that he believes banning defensive shifts would "inject offense into the game" despite the fact that such shifting is considered to be a more forward-thinking strategy. Ravech goes on to ask Manfred if it would be basically telling teams who have done the research on how to use shifts to their advantage that the work is appreciated but it's killing the game and Manfred replied that it is the job of the commissioner's office to look at whether or not these advancements are something they actually want in the game of baseball.

In addition to being in favor of banning defensive shifts, Manfred is also a supporter of the pitch clock that seems to be inevitably headed to MLB in the coming seasons. After testing it out during Arizona Fall League games this offseason, pitch clocks will be implemented in Double-A and Triple-A level games this season. For those concerned about the pacing of baseball games, having a clock dictate how quickly a pitch must be thrown and eliminating some of the excess stalling that goes on between pitches might be a decent solution. Not everyone agrees, though. Having baseball be a sport that isn't bound by a clock has appeal to some fans and installing a clock just takes some of that freedom away. It seems like only a matter of time before it becomes reality at the big league level, though, especially with Manfred's support.

Yahoo's Jeff Passan asked two GMs that he considers to be "sabermetrically inclined" about Manfred's comments on banning the shift. Perhaps surprisingly, both of them agreed with the commissioner's idea. If you have players like Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann inked to deals for the next few seasons it's easy to see why one would be in favor of making offense a little easier for those players again. As much as we'd like to believe that these guys should be able to adjust to the shifts implemented against them, it seems like some of them simply can't (or won't).

Jonathan Judge at The Hardball Times dug into whether or not defensive shifts were responsible for MLB's lackluster offensive output in August of last year after Jonah Keri cited them as one of the reasons behind the slumping numbers. The results suggest that shifting isn't actually dragging offense down the way some think. Because of this, Manfred's idea to come in and make the practice of shifting illegal is possibly just fixing something that isn't actually broken about the game instead of something that is.

Would you be in favor of banning defensive shifts in baseball with the hope that there would be an increase in offense, or do you think doing so would set the game back in terms of progress? Can you appreciate than Manfred is actually trying to improve the game so soon, or has he just rocked the boat too much too early?