Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants to ban defensive shifts

Yankees manager Joe Girardi is tired of seeing his hitters go up against a defensive shift.

Yankees hitters went up against the shift on roughly 30 percent of their plate appearances last season, per Stats LLC -- 12 percent more than any other team in the big leagues.

The defensive shift is even more prevalent across baseball this season -- the number of shifts might double last season's 17,744, and the Yankees are still on the receiving end of more than their fair share of those shifts.

And Girardi can't do anything about it, but complain.

But boy did he complain.

"It's illegal defense, just like basketball," Girardi told reporters in Arlington, Texas Tuesday. "Guard your man. Guard your spot. If I were commissioner, they'd be illegal... I just think the field was built this way for a reason. Two on one side, two on the other."

Girardi wanted to make something else clear too, besides his disgruntlement: "As long as it's legal, I'm gonna play it."

Oh, and he's playing it: Under Girardi, the Yankees performed the fourth most shifts in baseball last season. This year, they're on pace to shift roughly 1,250 times.

It takes a tremendous amount of cognitive dissonance to despise the same tactic you so frequently employ, especially when you oppose that tactic for fundamental reasons. That's one step beyond "I don't like it, but..." it's straight hypocrisy.

Girardi believes that the shift is against the spirit of the game -- the diamond was built "this way for a reason" -- but in the early days of baseball, there were only three infielders and the shortstop was a guy who was a half-infielder, half-outfielder, placed in the middle to relay throws.

The position evolved. Smart people put the shortstop in a better, more advantageous place on the field -- just like Girardi does when he employs a defensive shift. Just like teams do to his batters.

Here's something else that's in the spirit of the game -- "hit 'em where they ain't."

If Girardi feels that defensive shifts are stealing outs from his team, he should stop putting pull-happy hitters in his lineup. The defense is adjusting to Yankees hitters, and the onus now lies on the Yankees to respond. That's how sports work, it's a constant ebb and flow of adjustments.

Beyond that, there's no rule that tells Girardi that he has to shift. If he feels so strongly about it, he should stop employing it.

But it makes sense to shift if you're interested in getting an out. Just as it makes sense to follow a scouting report and throw certain batters certain pitches on certain counts. Is Girardi against throwing high fastballs to overeager power hitters with two strikes against them? Should those scouting-report optimized pitches be banned?

In football, should teams be forbidden from playing certain defensive formations because it limits offense? (#banthenickel)

What about in soccer -- should teams not be allowed to park the bus?

And the argument that it's equivalent to "illegal defense" is disingenuous -- the NBA changed the illegal defense rule, which previously banned zone defenses, in 2001, because offenses were shifting four players to one side of the court and playing isolation basketball with their best player. Teams couldn't double-team them effectively under the previous rule language. The NBA didn't make the rule change because defenses were too good, it was because the defenses were being limited from defending. But the rule change emboldened defenses, and offenses eventually adjusted. Now basketball's in an era of relentless innovation.

Perhaps instead of complaining, Girardi should do some innovation of his own.