What Mariners’ Dipoto, Servais think about shift ban, other rule changes

Mar 13, 2022, 5:02 PM

Mariners Scott Servais Jarred Kelenic...

Manager Scott Servais and OF Jarred Kelenic talk during a Mariners game against Arizona on Sept. 10. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

With the new collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association, the Mariners and the rest of the league have some new rule changes to prepare for.

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The changes will be minimal for Seattle in 2022, with the inherited runner on second base in extra innings that was used in 2020 and 2021 going away, and the National League instituting the designated hitter. But things could get interesting in 2023 with an expected ban of some sort on defensive shifts, a pitch clock being instituted and the bases themselves growing in size.

On Friday, we heard from Mariners general manager and president baseball operations Jerry Dipoto both on Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk Show and in a video press conference, as well as manager Scott Servais on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob. They each shared their thoughts on some of the expected rule changes. Here’s a breakdown of what they had to say.

The shift

Dipoto in particular is in favor of some sort of ban on shifts, while Servais is understanding of the reasoning behind it despite having enjoyed using the strategy himself on the field.

“I’m most intrigued by some of the rule changes that are probably a year out. I’m maybe as happy about the idea of the ban on shift (as anything),” Dipoto said during his press conference. “It’s just gonna make it a more interesting game to watch than baseball has sometimes become over the past few years and make the game move quicker. That’s an exciting thing.

“… We all love watching the game, but to see a crisp, clean, athletic-looking game, that’s what baseball’s always been and we got away from that a little bit. So I think the rules changes that are on the horizon are exciting in that way.”

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Servais told Wyman and Bob he welcomes ways to make the game more exciting but did express some concern about limiting the freedom currently afforded to managers.

“I think it’s always hard when you tell teams or coaches where you’re supposed to play your players,” Servais said. “I mean, that’s part of the strategy behind the game and the freedom that you should have. But I also do understand that we need to do some things to create a little bit more action in our game, more excitement. A few more hits, a few more baserunners would probably help in that.

“I kind of enjoy the strategy behind (shifts) – you take in all of the information and your analytical department trying to help you get your players in the right spot. It’s a lot of fun to do that type of stuff. But ultimately we need to do what’s best for the game, and if baseball thinks this will help create more action on the field then I’m all for that.”

Pitch clock

Chalk this up as another rule Dipoto is in favor of. It’s something that has been used in the minor leagues for multiple years at this point, and with the Mariners’ incoming wave of highly-regarded pitching prospects on the way, Dipoto said the franchise will be in good position for the transition at the MLB level if it does occur in 2023.

“I love pitch clock. We’ve watched it in the minor leagues for quite some time. All of our young pitchers are in tune with it and it truly makes the game easier to watch in a lot of ways.”

No more inherited runner in extra innings

This much-maligned rule will be abandoned immediately, but Servais did admit he liked the rule simply because it worked out quite well for the Mariners. Seattle was an MLB-best 14-7 in extra innings in 2021, which factored into the M’s also leading baseball in one-run games with a 33-19 record.

“We actually took advantage of that,” Servais said with a laugh. “I thought we played very well in extra innings and sometimes we needed a little help by starting the runner at second base… I thought our guys handled that situation and executed very well at the end of games, and (it) allowed us to win a lot of close games… I’ve always been tied to, you know, ‘we’ll roll with it.’

“I think the people that are making those decisions are trying to do things that better the game and make it a more positive experience for our fans, and getting rid of that ‘starting the guy on second’ rule, I’m OK with it. But I gotta be honest, I did enjoy it. I thought it helped us.”

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What Mariners’ Dipoto, Servais think about shift ban, other rule changes