New Commissioner Rob Manfred sat down for an interview and immediately ticked off baseball nerds. Do you know how hard that is to do? Actually, it's incredibly easy. If Manfred mentioned how Red Ruffing lost 25 games for the '27 Red Sox, not the '28 Red Sox, baseball nerds would have handwritten angry letters and mailed them, post haste. Baseball nerds are kind of the worst.
Except this time, we're in the right, dang it. Manfred is looking into the idea of getting rid of shifts, and the Giants have invested a lot of time and energy into acquiring and keeping hitters who spray the ball all over the field. They have an advantage relative to other teams. I mean, not when it comes to that thing where the ball goes over the fence, but they have a plan.
The only regular who isn't immune to the shift? Brandon Belt. Unless ...
Unless he does that whenever he pleases.
The situation: A scoreless tie in the fifth game of an evened-up World Series. Hunter Pence reached by singling up the middle with no outs. The Royals shifted, and Belt had a choice: First and second, no outs, or take what's in the box. He was the prudent game show contestant and he took runners on. Travis Ishikawa advanced both runners with a deep flyball, and Brandon Crawford grounded out. That was the first run of the game.
For all the guff that James Shields is getting for his postseason, it's worth remembering that he allowed his first run of Game 5 after a 45-hopper, a bunt against the shift, a sac fly, and a RBI fielder's choice. His second run came after two singles that weren't exactly scalded and an RBI single that was. Those were the only two runs he allowed that game. He deserved better.
It all started with that bunt single, though. The Giants started with a 59-percent win expectancy, and they ended it with a 65-percent win expectancy, so I'm not going to pretend it was the most important thing to happen in Game 5. Still, it did wonders for my confidence to see the Giants on the board with Madison Bumgarner pitching. And if teams continually want to give the Giants a free runner to prevent against the x-percent chance that Belt will do something worse, I'm for watching this all season.
This is the year that Brandon Belt hits .320 and people stop shifting on him. It's not like he's going to hit 30 dingers. Let him gorge at the buffet of cheap singles. Here's that time when Brandon Belt beat the shift in the World Series. Let's appreciate it, lest it get lost in the shuffle of the 74 other amazing things that happened in the 2014 postseason.