When scrolling through Twitter on an idle afternoon, you might come across a headline like, “Manny Machado makes great running catch in right.” And you probably don’t think much of it. Machado is a great defensive player and athlete and stretching back into the outfield to make a play on a flare is certainly in his ba….
Wait a minute…right field? Doesn’t Machado play third base?
Yeah, well, positions are for cowards and losers.
Machado had flipped over to the right side of the diamond in a shift on Texas’s Joey Gallo, who hasn’t hit a grounder to the left side of the diamond since he was trying to hit a kid who wiped a booger on his locker in 5th grade. The Padres have been using Machado this year in the main part of the shift, instead of their shortstop or second baseman, because Machado is such an athlete and keeps Fernando Tatis Jr.’s range on the left side.
And if Machado is going to flag down flies like this as if he were an interested Randy Moss, so much the better.
This is why discussions of limiting or banning the shift are so dumb. Having great players in position to make great plays should be something baseball wants more of. And giving guys chances to make plays in awkward positions or throwing out runners from the outfield looks cool. And no other sport ever thinks innovative strategy is something to be avoided. Having Machado play in right field is no different than when the Timberwolves used Kevin Garnett at the top of their zone defense or having Giannis be the main ball-handler for the Bucks.