‘Intellectualism’ went too far in baseball

Theo Epstein is reining back the baseball analytics fixation he helped usher in.

Epstein, the former architect of Red Sox and Cubs World Series champions, has been tasked by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred with reverting the game to a more aesthetically pleasing product from a competition perspective.

He spoke with Jon Greenberg of The Athletic about his belief that the shift was an example of “intellectualism” run amok.

“The shift, I think, is an example of intellectualism gone too far in the game,” he said.

“I think it’s a better game when it comes down not to whether your front office has the best algorithm, but whether your second baseman is on an island, with a big left-handed hitter up, and can get a great break on the ball, range to his left, dive, leave his feet, make the play cleanly, and come up and throw the guy out.

“That’s putting players in the middle of the action, where they should be.”

Hiring Epstein to shore up the action in the game is akin to casinos who hire ex-cheats to help them identify mistakes in their processes.

Theo Epstein is helping revert MLB back to previous competitive action levels.
MLB via Getty Images

In addition to banning the shift, there’s a new pitch clock that has shortened the average spring training game by 20-25 minutes.

In late February, a mash-up video from MLB analyst Rob Friedman went viral showing Dodgers pitcher Landon Knack throwing an entire inning faster than Guardians pitcher Pedro Báez threw a single pitch against Epstein’s Cubs in the 2016 World Series.

The video has been viewed over four million times.

Theo Epstein celebrates 2016 Cubs World Series.
Theo Epstein celebrates 2016 Cubs World Series.
Getty Images

“The people that watch spring training are normally your avid fans,” Epstein told The Athletic.

“Your casual fans don’t watch spring training much, but I think just about everyone has seen the video of (the Dodgers and Padres) playing a whole half-inning in the time it takes Pedro Báez to throw one pitch in the ’16 NLCS. It’s actually funny, the camera at one point cuts away to me being like, being super frustrated up in the GM box, ironically enough.

“But yeah, those viral moments have helped bring attention to it.”