Manfred’s office has been actively seeking ways to stimulate offense, installing several rule changes in the minors. He said on Tuesday that he was strongly in favor of eliminating infield shifts (now banned in Class AA), which turn more grounders into outs and encourage hitters to swing for the fences.
The negotiations, Manfred said, offer a chance to reimagine the sport and “restore it to being played in a way that is closer to what many of us have enjoyed historically. The game evolves. What we play today won’t look all that much like 1971. The question is: Which version would you like to get to?”
Recent innovations brought on by the pandemic, he said, are unlikely to last. Extra-inning games have started with a runner on second base for the past two seasons, and games played as parts of doubleheaders have lasted only seven innings each. Both, he said, are “much less likely to become part of our permanent landscape” — though he stopped short of mandating that teams at least offer coupons or discounts as goodwill gestures to fans who bought tickets for nine-inning games that were changed to seven innings.
“Those are things that sound easy,” Manfred said. “They are a lot harder to execute in real life.”