Shift. I said, shift!
What? Not certain what I mean, where to go, what to do? Man, you could play for the Dodgers.
These are the brighter, smarter-than-everybody-else Dodgers. They know stuff. Just watch ’em.
They have their numbers and they know how to use them. Anyway, most of the time. Hey, at least some of the time.
Our favorite Geek Squad arrived in the front office during the off-season and went to work revamping the Dodgers culture. The Steve Urkels of the world had their very own baseball team to play with, one that comes with a really big payroll.
One of the things they are enamored of is the defensive shift. The Dodgers were shift-happy most of the season. Sometimes it worked beautifully, sometimes not. If in the end it worked out more than it did not, I’m sure they have some numbers for you.
But Thursday night it failed, and failed so miserably, it just might have ended their season.
Naturally I’m talking about the infamous fourth inning. They were leading the Mets 2-1 in the decisive Game 5 of their National League Division Series when Dodger-killer Daniel Murphy led off with a single. One out later, with the Dodgers in a major defensive shift on the right side for left-handed hitter Lucas Duda, Zack Grienke walked him.
Murphy started trotting to second, only as he arrived, he took a peek at third and noticed no one was there. So he broke into a sprint and ended up at third, with one odd stolen base, and one group of red-faced Dodgers.
Who should have been covering third? You heard the word “probably” a lot from the Dodgers when discussing the play. Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly nominated shortstop Corey Seager, the only defender who was on the left side of the infield.
“That's probably Corey there,” Mattingly said. “He's on that side. Whoever's on that side. Obviously, we don't shift a ton, but it's probably his responsibility there. It's probably all of our responsibility as far as guys on the field about kind of talking about that, making sure that we know.
“I think we know on a hit that the catcher's going and Zack's going home, but with the walk …”
Yeah, maybe they didn’t think about what to do with the walk.
Plus, they were starting a rookie at shortstop who’s been with the team a whole month. And it’s not like they’ve started this shifting thing in earnest in the minors.
“Not much,” Seager said. “It was kind of an on-the-go learning thing. But that’s not an excuse at all.”
It’s unfair to blame a 21-year-old, though you have to wonder if the Dodgers had gone with Jimmy Rollins if the veteran wouldn’t have been more alert to the situation.
“Somebody’s got to be there,” Seager said. “Whether it’s me, Greinke, somebody. Somebody has to cover there. That’s a huge mistake on our team’s part. You have to know ahead of time if that happens that one of us has it covered.”
So who’s fault was it?
“Probably mine,” Seager said. “I should have at least gone halfway to the bag. I was talking about the next play, and unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention and he got to sneak by. That’s something we have to discuss beforehand and work out.”
Correct, if they’re going to continue to shift this much they’re going to have to give more attention during spring training and the regular season.
Greinke tried to be diplomatic.
“Just someone is supposed to be there – either me or Seager or Yas [catcher Yasmani Grandal],” Greinke said. “Someone should be there. A bunch of people made mistakes. It wasn’t any one person.”
By the time they had all carefully finished discussing the play, I still wasn’t convinced they knew the correct way to prevent the play from happening.
The next batter, Travis d’Arnaud, hit a sacrifice fly to score Murphy and the game was tied. Murphy would later add a solo home run and the Mets won by a run. Including a gift run. One that played no small part in ending their really smart season.
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