To DH or not DH is once again a question

Rumor has it that Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is putting together a crack staff of experts this off-season to discuss how they can make baseball better. One of the topics of discussion, once again, is what to do about the designated hitter rule. Here’s my take on the DH.

I’m a man who likes options.  Variety is the spice of life, I say.  (Just ask Tiger) Sometimes I like steak for dinner, other times I prefer fish.  Often I’m in the mood for a comedy, other times it’s a drama or action film.

The same can be said for my sports interests.  Sometimes I like a fast-paced, up-tempo game.  At other times, I can really sink my teeth into a good, defensive struggle.

That is why keeping the designated hitter in the American League is the right thing to do.  Sports is (supposed to be) about the fans. The DH gives fans an option.  Those who prefer more high-powered offense can tune in to watch the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels or Tigers.  Those who prefer the old school, senior circuit way of manufacturing runs can opt for the National League.

babe-ruthTo be perfectly honest, I grew up an American League guy.  I’d rather watch paint dry than have to watch most National League pitchers hit.  Half the time it looks like they’re batting from the wrong side of the plate!  To me, it’s a lull in the game.  Call me crazy, but watching Brandon Webb bat .088 is not my idea of a good time.  Sure, it’s impressive when the better hitting pitchers take the mound and still bat for average.  But Babe Ruth was an anomaly.  For the most part, pitchers are horrific batters.

Eons ago, when I played high school baseball, coaches separated the pitchers from the rest of the team at the beginning of the season.  We never saw those guys unless they faced us on the mound.  Pitchers practiced separately, had different stretches and workout routines, and rarely, if ever, took batting practice.  That’s because their position requires highly specified skills, one of which is NOT being relied upon for offense.  Pitchers don’t play every day like offensive players, so it’s much more difficult for them to put the bat on the ball with regularity, never mind be relied upon for the occasional RBI.  To give you an example, Randy Wolf led the NL in RBI this season with 11. That’s a decent week for A-Rod.

david-ortizDon’t get me wrong.  I don’t condone designated hitters being unable to play a defensive position.  That puts their team at a disadvantage.  For example, David Ortiz’s inability to play a lick of first base severely limits Terry Francona’s options.  Growing up a Red Sox fan, Boston had Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski.  As a fan, I wanted to see all those guys in the lineup.  One problem… baseball doesn’t have four outfield positions.

Major League Baseball originally established the designated hitter in 1973 to cure then struggling American League offenses.  The ‘position’ has been in existence ever since.  Has it made a difference?  Of course.  The top four hitting teams in the majors this year (Angels, Yankees, Twins, Red Sox) were all in the American League.  A.L. teams have consistently had higher team batting averages since the DH’s inception.  But has it dramatically changed the game?  Probably not.  No true designated hitter has ever won the Most Valuable Player award, although David Ortiz recently came close.  And the position has prolonged the careers of Hall of Fame caliber athletes, allowing fans to see more of Bernie Williams, George Brett, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Paul Molitor.

ken-griffey-jrThe DH debate really breaks down to whether, as a fan, you were raised following a National or American League team.  National league fans chastise the designated hitter position, saying it’s not pure.  Purists Shmurists!  Cole Hamels hit .148 this season.  How pure is that?

Sure, managing a National League ballgame generally requires more creativity, double switches, timely substitutions and decision-making.  However, you can’t tell me that in inter-league play or the World Series, National League managers don’t salivate at the opportunity to plug an extra bat into the lineup.

I like scoring.  I’m a Red Sox fan.  I’m an American League guy.  Don’t take away my DH.  Someone once said “baseball is a game of failure.”  Why worsen matters by making me watch Barry Zito hit .118?

National League fans, I’d like to leave you with a few questions and I want you to answer honestly.  Do you really enjoy watching pitchers hit?  Or are you just opposed to the DH because it’s not tradition?  Early in the game, with runners in scoring position and two outs, wouldn’t you rather have a more reliable hitter come to the plate instead of watching your pitcher swing and miss?

I’m not saying the National League should add the DH.  I’m just saying leave things the way they are.  There’s nothing wrong with the two leagues being slightly different.  I’ll take my David Ortiz, Jim Thome and Vlad Guerrero and you can have your Ted Lilly’s .118 lifetime batting average.  Enjoy the fireworks.

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27 Replies to “To DH or not DH is once again a question”

  1. All or nothing. Either make the National & American leagues the same or stop inter-league play. Its too confusing when one part of MLB has a rule and the other part doesn’t. Its like giving the Eastern Conf of the NBA the 3-point shot but not the Western Conf. Just because back in the day of the dinosaurs, when there were two different leagues competing in baseball, doesn’t mean that it has to be that way now. Its MLB. Its one league with two divisions and Bud-lite Selig can’t figure that out.

  2. Chris

    Selig wants to do something about making the game better ? Well how about steppin’ into the 21st century to begin with ? Instant replay to verify those close calls. And the indecision’s of the umps on more than one occasion during a game . And speeding up the game would help as well. Who wants to see a game drag on for hours when they’ve only played nine innings ?

    As the DH it doesn’t matter to me either way.

    Alan Parkins

  3. Al… I’d be surprised if they didn’t come out of these meetings with some solid, healthy proposals on how to implement instant replay going into next season.

    Aside from the length of the games themselves, that seems to be the major concern with the sport, particularly after the amount of missed calls in last year’s playoffs.

  4. much like the BCS, MLB will not do a damn thing about the DH. They think this ‘controversy’ gives them a rub or some gloss.

    Imagine how out of touch with reality the MLB owners really are if Selig is their leader! Col Klink had more game than Budrick!

  5. Chris,

    I really like your take on the DH rule. I find most folks are either all for it or 100% against it but you make a solid nuanced argument.

    My only caveat for the AL (and I know it would never happen but it’s just wishful thinking) is that if a pitcher hits a batter, they have to take the first at bat the next time their team comes to the plate. I hated watching that bitch, Roger Clemens, whack batters throughout his career with reckless disregard knowing he’s never have to be on the receiving end of a high and tight 94 MPH fastball.

    I guess I’m just a fan of vigilante justice and retribution…even at holiday times!

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa to you and all the Sportschump readers out there.


  6. Han-O going all Hogan’s Heroes on us!

    Good thing you hang out with a bunch of old dudes that get your sense of humor. Otherwise, we’d be looking at you funny.

    I always found it odd that a owner could become commissioner of the league.

    I have an idea. Maybe the next commissioner should be a player, huh?

    I’ll bring that up at the next board meeting.

  7. Frank, thanks, man. Back at ya’.

    Or we could just combine baseball and dodgeball, juice up all the players, put ’em in a steel cage and REALLY have some fun.

  8. As a National League Follower and watching Baseball since attending my first ball game Pirates vs Cincinatti in july 19 1965 I have to say that Im all for the Pitcher taking his turn at bat. In that game Law was the pitcher had 2 hits and went all 9 innings. all in if I remember correctly 4 at bat. Just as The Great Clemente did. Needless to say that one of the best designated hitter Edgar Martines Is from the Island I have to say It does not do much for me for as being a great ball player. There is nothing more beatiful that seing a Pitcher help his own cause by hitting a single,double,triple or a Home run. So my vote is no designated hitter .

  9. I think the owners are out of touch…. and I go and reference a bad TV show that they haven’t even televised reruns of in 20 years!

    Argument against pitchers batting, two words….. Randy Johnson!

  10. Chris

    The two biggest problems facing the sport are the finances of the clubs and the real intransigence shown and the hierarchies resistance to change .

    There are a but a handful of teams with vast financial resources and the wealth isn’t being spread around evenly enough , at all.

    Alan Parkins

  11. I’ve been an american league guy my whole life, but I can’t wait for interleague play to see my pitchers try to hit the ball. It can be very humorous at times. Other times they actually come throught and hit a double.

  12. Han… Don’t they still show Hogan’s Heroes on TV Land?

    The only thing larger than Randy Johnson’s strike zone is Elin Nordegren’s divorce settlement check.

  13. Al… Cowherd made a great point on his radio show the other day.

    He said in the NBA and NFL, all parts of the country are covered with quality, competitive teams.

    In the West, the NFL has the Chargers and Cards. In the South, there’s the Cowboys, Saints and Fish. In the Midwest there’s the Colts, Steelers and Vikes. In the Northeast, you’ve got the GMen and Eagles.

    Same in the NBA. You’ve got the Lakers out West, Portland in the Northwest, Spurs and Mavs in Texas, Denver in the mountain region, Orlando in the South, Cleveland in the midwest and Celtics in the Northeast.

    But in Major League Baseball, the powers are centralized in the Northeast, which is probably not good for the sport.

  14. Exactly, Brad.

    To me, it’s always looked like a pitcher is hitting from the wrong side of the plate.

    I will agree that the DH gives the AL an unfair advantage in head to head match-ups but as it is, major league pitchers are babied more than NFL quarterbacks.

    I say, let none of them hit and shorten their pitching rotation to three days.

  15. Al… The sports media is so fickle.

    The Saints go on an amazing run where everyone and their mother is asking whether they can be beaten.

    One loss to Dallas and everyone’s now asking if they’ve been exposed.

  16. Love following heroes episodes, it started from boring to a fine tv show now. During the first few episodes, I was like, its another xmen clone. But it turned out to be thrilling, hope the new season will be released soon.

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