New commissioner Rob Manfred visited with the Pirates on Friday and spoke to the press. As one might expect, he said some nice things about the Bucs' ownership and management. More importantly for our purposes, though, there was also this:
"There's a lot of conversation about the fact that offense is down," he said. "We haven't even decided whether we have an aberration or a trend that may require a remedy. Someone said, ‘If and when you decide there is a problem, what might you be willing to consider?' In that context, I mentioned defensive shifts. Nothing more serious than that."
Manfred paused and laughed again.
"And, frankly, given the feedback I've gotten since making that comment, I don't know if I'd even consider it anymore."
That's great, and it's nice that the commissioner is willing to listen to criticism. Defensive shifts provide a way for teams to be creative, and creativity that's respectful of the game ought to be rewarded, not shut down. It wasn't clear what form Manfred's rules about the shift might have taken, but it struck me as really silly to give one-dimensional hitters an easier time by forcing defenders to stand in places where the ball was unlikely to be hit.