Like the vast majority of fans with teams in the National League, I am not in favor of universal incorporation of the designated hitter in Major League Baseball.
The league’s proposal to resume play under a shortened 82-game schedule would also make the DH universal in both leagues for this season, if play is able to resume later this summer.
It’s probably a necessity under the proposed schedule which would not include travel to different regions of the country. Teams in the American League East and National League East would remain on that coast and only play each other. Similarly, teams in the two central divisions would only play each other and teams in the two west divisions would only play each other.
Thus, for the St. Louis Cardinals, the only regular season games they would play under this proposal would be with division rivals (the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates) and a pool of five interleague opponents (the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians).
From the time the Houston Astros moved from the NL Central to the AL West, there have been 15 teams in each league, meaning that for all 30 teams to play on any given day, at least one of the games has to be an interleague game.
That’s around the time talks for making the designated hitter a universal rule in both the American and National Leagues instead of an American League exclusive started to get more serious. Because surely now an NL team would need to incorporate the DH to be ready for this constant slate of interleague games they would have to play, right?
Except they didn’t. A National League team will go weeks and weeks at a time between interleague series.
Whereas all interleague games used to be confined to about a two-week period in the middle of the summer, now the games are spread from the beginning of the season to the end. So, an NL team using a DH in mid-April for a series at an AL ballpark might not play at an AL ballpark again until June or July.
Under this new temporary proposal, to have baseball this year it’s probably necessary because now instead of 1/15 teams having an interleague game on any given day, the ratio would drop to 1/5. Teams would have interleague play at a much higher rate if the current proposal is adopted. And we all know the AL isn’t about to give the DH up when those teams pay big money for those players, even though they essentially only play half of a position.
If adopted for this shortened season, we would then have to hope that they don’t decide they like the universal DH so much that they adopt it for the next full 162-game season also.
On its surface, the DH looks like a good thing for the game. It takes the bat out of the pitcher’s hand and gives it to a much better big-league hitter.
Proponents for the DH argue that this makes the game more exciting or enjoyable for the mainstream sports fan.
I think if your average viewer thinks baseball is boring, adding one better hitter in one spot in the lineup out of nine isn’t likely to change their mind. If that’s your reason for the DH, then why not have rules in place to allow nine different players to hit and nine different players to play the field for each team?
Because that would be pretty ridiculous, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attached to seeing pitchers hit. Many of them haven’t gotten training at hitting in many years because the game has been overspecialized and at many levels they’re only trained in how to pitch and not how to be a complete ballplayer.
But does a pitcher going up to the plate look any more ridiculous than an NBA center trying to shoot a free throw? Not to me.
My contention is that every advantage you can get in the game of baseball should cost you something.
You want a better hitter to go to the plate in place of your pitcher when his turn comes up? OK, then you have to take that pitcher out for the rest of the game and bring in a new pitcher the next inning.
You want to put a huge lumbering power hitter into your lineup for a full game? OK, then he should have to play the field and if he’s a subpar defender then that’s the price you should have to pay in exchange for what you gain from his bat.
This creates a risk-reward system for every decision that an NL manager has to make.
Does he leave this pitcher in and hope that he can last another inning or two or does he take the pitcher out now and hope the pinch hitter he sends up can produce a run?
Does he take one of his starters out in a double switch to extend the amount of time before he would potentially need to pinch hit for a pitcher or does he leave his best players in and potentially get one inning less out of his pitcher?
The way an AL game plays out these days, the manager is almost just there to manage morale and click monitor the pitch count. His hardest decision after filling out the batting order is just to determine when his pitcher is too tired to continue.
Taking one spot in the lineup and separating that position’s responsibilities between two people for an entire game is just not the way that America’s pastime should be.