It’s poked its ugly head again. That age old question — well not age old, just 42-years old — of should both leagues use the designated hitter in Major League baseball?
Last night, saw yet another abnormality in the rule as the MLB All Star Game was played in a National League park, with the National League owning home field privileges behind the San Francisco Giants World Series championship and yet the DH was used.
I get it. It’s the All Star Game. Pitchers are used more frequently, which means should they have to bat, managers would burn through their position players as pinch hitters. Now that the MLB All Star Game is actually a very important game — how Manfred didn’t change this the day he got into office is beyond me — managers don’t want to have to deal with those decisions. They are particularly hard to notate in their 16-inning, 700 page thesis that was apparently required before the game.
So should baseball unify the rule? It seems to be heading that way. Earlier this season, when Max Scherzer was the latest multi-billionaire pitcher to get hurt while batting, cries came forward that it was time for the National League to adopt the DH. Another front argues that now that interleague play is no longer a midseason marketing tool and played every night of the week that unified rules need to be established. One league, one set of rules.
So should the National League adopt the designated hitter? Absolutely not. But those people bitching that there should be unified rules are 100 percent correct. What they fail to argue is that the American League should drop the DH. Baseball prides itself on tradition, maybe it’s time to take it back.
Most people think that the DH was conceived in the late 1960s and then put into force on that fateful April 6, 1973 day when Ron Blomberg was walked by Luis Tiant in the first at bat ever by a DH. That is far from the truth. As early as 1906, legendary managers like Connie Mack argued that he was tired of watching his stud pitchers look like fools hacking away at pitches. For 67 years people thought Mack and his contemporaries were fools to add another batter to the lineup, but then in 1973, one league got their way, and like always, it wasn’t to better the game.
As with most stunts (interleague play for example), it was a money making tool. At the end of the 1960s, pitchers were absolutely dominating the batters. Hell, Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in 1967 by batting .326 and led the league in batting average again the following year hitting .301!!! There is no denying that offense was down. Instead of infusing steroids into the game like good ol’ Bud did, the American League simply added another batter.
The DH raised the offense in the American League and it also raised the attendance so owners were happy. You know who I bet wasn’t happy? Babe Ruth. And here’s a little tip. If the Great Bambino doesn’t like something, it’s best you change it, because he was the guy who — you know — made baseball America’s Pastime.
Why do I say the Colossus of Clout wouldn’t approve? In 1918 Ruth had a down season by his standards. He slashed .300/.411/.555 with a league leading 11 home runs and 61 RBI. He also went 13-7, with a 2.22 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and 18 complete games en route to leading the Boston Red Sox to that then infamous 1918 title. I’m pretty sure the Sultan of Swat would look at pitchers in the American League of today’s era in disgust.
Pitchers batting for the most part, does get boring. But isn’t baseball trying to speed up the game? Having a legitimate hitting threat in the lineup, usually one that is a dominant power hitter in the heart of the order nonetheless, extends innings and games. A pitcher most of the time comes up and strikes out on three pitches.
Don’t tell the New York Mets that, though. The Mets top pitching prospect Steven Matz made his long awaited debut on June 28th. He hurled 7.2 innings striking out six and allowing just two runs to get the win. How did he get the win? Well, the hapless Mets offense certainly doesn’t help. Instead, Matz went 3-for-3 in his big league debut, driving in four runs taking matters into his own hands.
Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey have also had to step up and win games for a Mets offense that ranks near the bottom in every offensive category. Is adding another flailing bat to that lineup going to help things? One thing is for sure, taking Syndergaard, Harvey and Matz out of the lineup sure won’t.
Jake Arrieta closed out the Chicago Cubs first half by hurling a complete game victory, in which his fifth inning home run provided the insurance the Cubs needed to walk away with a victory. All I’m saying is this: I’m a Yankees fan. I rather have some of their pitchers taking their licks than having to watch Stephen Drew continue to bat on a daily basis.
Having pitchers in the lineup also adds strategy to the game. Here’s the strategy for American League managers to their DH: hit a home run, but whatever you do, don’t ground into the shift. When pitchers are in the lineup, you have to think about sacrifice bunts, pinch hitting and when to let them swing away. In the instructional video below, you’ll see how two Hall of Fame pitchers transformed their astounding careers on the mound to noteworthy careers at the plate. Why? Because chicks love the ball.
One thing about the DH that has always caused debate amongst purists is that it prolongs careers of otherwise untalented or mediocre athletes in the field. David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez, Dave Parker. These guys would have seen their careers end long before they did because they literally brought little else to the game. Oh, Parker can’t run and field anymore. Send him to the AL. Oh, Ortiz is too fat to play first base. Make him a DH.
(Yankee homer side note: Remember this Sox Nation, no DH, no end to the curse. Without Ortiz, the Red Sox don’t win in 2004. The Yankees won 20 of their 27 World Championships prior to the DH-era.)
Lastly, if baseball is truly America’s Pastime, if baseball is truly a reflection of society as it tries so hard to be, how the hell are the two different rules for two different peoples?
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”
The DH rule has made baseball not even a constant of its own self. Take this for a hypothetical. The Eastern Conference in the NBA has been the inferior league to the Western Conference for, well, this millennium. Imagine if new NBA Commish David Silver allowed the Eastern Conference to use six players on the court even in games in which they played the Western Conference to level the playing field. It’s absurd right?
Whether you want the DH in the NL to cut down on pitcher injuries and are tired of seeing pitchers attempt to hit, or whether you think the AL should get rid of the DH, it’s creeping more and more towards change. No matter what side of the fence you are on, the way the DH has gained momentum more so over the past two seasons, a decision will have to be made. Where do you stand? Chime off people, be heard!