BOSTON - Sorry Big Papi, as much as an "illegal defense" rule would help your batting average, not even your manager is in favor of the idea.
Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci recently wrote that the MLB should at least consider enforcing a policy that would limit infielders to a maximum of two on either side of second base. So in other words, if the second baseman slid to his left and played a very deep second base - shallow right field, essentially - the shortstop could not come over and play to the second baseman's side of the bag. That would help those left-handed pull hitters like Ortiz.
Ortiz obviously isn't the only example, but he's the example around these parts - and we've seen him hit into the shift on numerous occasions. Verducci explains that it eliminating the shift would bring back more offense to a game that has been dominated by pitchers lately. But the shift isn't eliminating home runs or triples. It takes away singles, with perhaps an occasional double down the line. Sure, it would put the hitter on-base therefore increasing the chances of runs, but overall, it doesn't sound like a "fix".
" . . . you can’t put the shortstop in short leftfield because the throw is too long – shifts are killing one type of hitter in particular: the lefthanded pull hitter with little speed. The most obvious example this year is Chris Davis of Baltimore. He hit .402 last year on balls in play to the pull field. This year, with shifts against him becoming more frequent and extreme, he is hitting .186 on balls in play when he pulls them.
In fact, many lefthanded sluggers are having down years. The group includes Davis (.202 batting average overall), Ryan Howard (.222), Jay Bruce (.221), Adam Dunn (.223), Shin-Soo Choo (.239), Pedro Alvarez (.237), Brian McCann (.242), David Ortiz (.251) and Adrian Gonzalez (.256).
And while Verducci states that some around MLB do feel a fix is needed, there's undoubtedly plenty that feel the opposite. Just as a team could play to its strengths at the plate, another should be able to counter it with its strengths on the field. And hey, learning to hit the ball to the opposite field would put an end to those shifts pretty quickly.
John Farrell is one of those in the game who is not a fan of a rule change that would eliminate defensive shifts.
"I think whether it's shifts or some other elements of the game, I think when you start to restrict the creativity of people, you may be taking away from the game itself," Farrell said. "The shifts certainly have affected offense, there's no doubt about it. And like we face opposing hitters, hitters make counter adjustments. Defenses are going to cause hitters make adjustments. So I would not be in favor of restricting the defensive alignment."
Mike Napoli is not in Tuesday night's lineup as his left ring finger continues to bother him.
"A down day and just dealing with a little swelling in that finger that he's been dealing with for quite some time," Farrell said. "So we felt a day down, added treatment would give him a chance to try to get ahead of it a little bit more."
Mike Carp is playing first base and hitting fifth in the lineup.