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Davis: ‘MLB needs more offense to fix image problem’

There has been a lot of chatter lately about how Major League Baseball has a marketing problem. In the world I live in, the problem comes from how they are playing on the field as the game evolves. In the world I don’t live in, the problem is the players’ lack of status in places like Twitter and Instagram.
Let’s start with everything I know about digital marketing.
Now let’s move to the product on the field.
MLB is doing a couple little things that they think is speeding up the pace of the game. By the way, pace of play between pitches is something that you only notice when watching a game on television. When you’re in the ballpark, the game moves at an excellent pace. To me, keeping hitters in the box, making sure pitchers aren’t staring down hitters for 30 seconds at a time, cutting down on visits to the mound, things like that help, but minimally. They help keep the casual fan a little more interested.
If MLB really wants to pick up the pace, so to speak, they are going to have to do like the NFL did and create some rules that make it a little easier for the offense to be productive. The two ways to do that are to eliminate the extreme shifting on defense and create a way a cut down on the number of pitchers a team can use in one game.
The pitching thing is probably not going to go away, at least not for the time being. Right now, there are too many youngsters who throw 95 to 100 mph, but are not being taught to throw with stamina or creativity. It’s been trending this way for 20 years, so count that many years to reteach pitchers to think in terms of throwing as many innings as possible.
What can be dealt with as soon as this offseason is the dramatic over-shifting defenses are doing right now. When lefthanded batters are at the plate this year, teams are shifting so much that the shortstop is playing up the middle on the second base side, while the second baseman is playing rover position, sometimes as deep as 30 to 40 feet on the outfield grass. Add to that, the pitchers are throwing 95+mph on the inside half, forcing lefties to pull the ball into the shift. The result is that lefthanded hitters are trying to beat the shift the only way possible, by hitting the ball over the fence.
There is a lot of shifting against righthanded hitters, but the results are not as dramatic because, well because if you put an infielder 30 feet deep between second and third base the hitter can simply outrun the long throw.
So, what can MLB do to even the playing field for the lefties? From where I sit (which is like here to the moon from MLB decision-makers), there are two choices.
One, is to make the infield rule that two players line up between first and second and two line up between second and third, but that would essentially take the defensive strategy out of the game completely.
The other would be to adopt a rule that states that at the pitch, four players have to have at least one foot in the infield dirt.
Look, if you are trying to watch a game with, and teach to a 12- or 13-year-old, how do you keep them interested? Because of the shift, hitters, especially lefthanders, are swinging for the fence on every swing. Strikeouts are at an all-time high, singles and even balls in play are heading towards all-time lows. Teams aren’t stealing bases. Relievers are dominating from the fifth inning on.
If baseball is going to figure out its image problem, it has to start by creating more offense, and that has to start by creating a playing field that is more conducive to offensive success.
Taking the extreme shifting away is a good place to start.