Wisch: Stick A Fork In The DH – It’s Dunn

By Dave Wischnowsky–

CHICAGO (CBS) On Tuesday night, Adam Dunn went 0-for-4 (with two strikeouts). On Monday night, he went 0-for-4 (with three strikeouts). And on Sunday afternoon, he was 0-for-3 (with two more strikeouts).

Although, I’ll cut him some slack on that last one. At least against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the White Sox’s would-be slugger played in the outfield.

And didn’t just DH.

Twenty-three years ago, Crash Davis was dead-on about baseball’s position-less position when Kevin Costner’s character in the 1988 classic “Bull Durham” famously declared that there should be a Constitutional Amendment outlawing the designated hitter.

Considering that Dunn is hitting a buck-seventy-five after signing a four-year, $56 million deal with the Sox, the career National Leaguer just might agree with Crash today. In fact, back in April, Dunn practically did when he told Sports Illustrated, “Let’s be honest. Being a DH these days – it’s like having one foot out the door. You’re one step from the retirement home.”

Judging by his performance in 2011 thus far, Dunn might be a step – or three – closer to Shady Acres than he originally anticipated. And if he is, I’d personally like to pack the DH position into the mothballs right alongside him.

It’s played out.

As a lifelong “National League” guy, I’ve always found the DH to be an abomination against baseball. During the 1960s, my dad pitched in San Francisco Giants farm system and gladly took his cuts at the plate. In fact, he believed strongly enough in pitchers also hitting that years later during his career managing youth baseball teams, he consciously avoided using a DH in games.

In my mind, baseball is meant to be 9 vs. 9, with every player capable of taking swings and fielding his position. Just like it was originally designed.

Not everyone agrees, however. And as realignment rumors swirl around Major League Baseball (I also say “nay” to 15-team, division-less leagues), some are even taking this time as an opportunity to attempt to force the DH upon the National League.

Earlier this week, for example, Barry Bloom, a columnist at MLB.com, wrote this about the issue of having a DH in one league and not the other:

“At the risk of alienating the traditionalists, there’s an easy fix to all of this: Institute the DH in both leagues. Despite the arguments for using one rule over the other, there is one argument that’s irrefutable. Only two professional leagues in the world currently demand that the pitcher hit – the NL in North America and Japan’s Central League. Like the AL, the Pacific League in Japan went to the DH nearly 40 years ago.”

Now, I really couldn’t care less what baseball rules they use in Japan – it’s our national pastime, after all – so I’m not buying into that. Nor am I swayed by Bloom’s other argument that the DH is good because it allows aging veterans a chance to play the game longer.

Why not use designated runners too, then?

When asked about the possibility of using the DH in the NL, Cubs manager Mike Quade said: “I’m an NL guy, so it makes me think that it will never happen. I’m not a DH guy whatsoever. It’s nice on those rare occasions. It’s also more relaxing to manage a game when all you have to worry about is your pitching. The NL is so challenging that I like it a lot.”

And so do I. To me, National League baseball – with managers required to strategize much more than their AL counterparts – is what the sport is meant to be. It’s more cerebral and, I think, more interesting.

Besides that, fact is the DH is overrated anyway. Consider this: Last season, the AL’s average production for the DH was a very pedestrian .252 average with a .436 slugging percentage and 22 homers. During interleague play, not even one NL team had its DH position perform up to the AL average.

I’d rather watch Carlos Zambrano take his hacks.

And, if you listen to current DHs, they sound as if they’d agree.

In April’s Sports Illustrated story about the decline of the DH, Albert Chen wrote, “Here’s the truth about the DH: Today’s ballplayers hate the gig. ‘I hear all the time about how much guys can’t stand it,’ says Mariners DH Jack Cust. ‘It’s not that DHs don’t make what they used to. It’s harder than people think it is. Guys would rather have the day off than have to do it.'”

Chen added, “It may seem like a dream job. And maybe in another era it was. You stepped up to the plate, took your best cuts against the opposing pitcher and retreated to the clubhouse, where you kicked back until your next turn. You were probably one of your team’s highest-profile players and certainly one of the most richly compensated. Once upon a time in the American League, when middle-of-the-order mashers with forearms the size of fire hydrants were the kings of the game, being a designated hitter was glamorous. But now? It may be the Worst Job in Baseball.”

I think it’s also the Worst Position in Baseball. And I’d prefer to see the DH go away completely. I know that’s not likely to happen.

But there’s no good argument for bringing it to the NL, too.

Adam Dunn would probably tell you the same thing.

Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: Stick A Fork In The DH – Its Dunn

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

  • tom Sharp

    I totally agree with you on Dunn (although I posted that a month ago) and the DH. Too many over the hill players go up and bat 4 times and do nothing else. Ruth and Aaron would have hit 1000 home runs if they let them do that. Tell your media buddy Stone that Dunn is done as are Ozzie and Williams; he doesn’t seem to believe it.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      In this post-PED era of baseball (well, supposedly, at least), I think these aging veterans still trying to hang on and earn a paycheck as DHs is only going to get uglier and uglier. Baseball players no longer get better after turning 35.

      Dunn, on the other hand, isn’t even that old (he turns 32 in November), but if he pulls out of this tailspin this season, I’ll be very surprised. He couldn’t be looking more uncomfortable in his new league and new role. It doesn’t help that he never wanted to be a DH anyway — does anyone really want that these days? I don’t want to watch Dunn, or other guys just take their hacks and then sit on the bench. To me, that isn’t baseball.

      As to your other point, I think that we could end up seeing a significant baseball house-cleaning on both sides of town — in terms of management and player personnel — this winter. We shall see. The offseason very likely might be more interesting than the regular season in Chicago this year.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I saw Dunn in Washington several times last year and he was a beast.
    I have a hard time believing that he “lost it” overnight…the guy is not that old either.

    I agree about the DH.
    Among other reasons, I prefer for the Pitcher to bat because it keeps him honest as to hitting and brushing back batters.

    When Charles O. Finley owned the A’s (I’d say in the 1970s for this idea), he wanted to have a Designated Runner. Reminds me of the joke: “Now running for Konerko, a glacier.”

    Glad you are back Dave, hope the wedding went well.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      The brushback stuff is an excellent point, Arse. And one I’ve always agreed with, as well. Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez are a couple of guys who come to mind when I think about some pitchers who probably did a few things while they were in the AL that they didn’t do in the NL because they knew they’d have to face the music at the plate themselves.

      Wedding in Cali was great, thanks for mentioning. Also had fun at last Friday’s and Sunday’s Cubs-Yankees games, too. The Sunday game with my dad for Father’s Day. Great atmosphere and both fan bases were very classy.

      P.S. Dig the Konerko joke, too. Haha. Guess you don’t need to run too fast when you’re homering every game, though. Can he keep it up tonight?

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    What do you think of the report on Booyah’s website (sources unnamed) that Wrigley can’t last 5 years w/o major cash spent on infrastructure, but the report said that it might not be capable of being salvaged (unlike Fenway).

    • Larry Horse's water trough

      A big bulldozer sounds good to me for Wrigley. Why does anybody want to save that dump anyway?

  • Tj McNulty

    Dunn chose to come here. He knew the whole time he was going to be the DH and now all of a sudden he is saying he never wanted to do it. Where else are we going to put him? He is too slow to be put in the OF and there is no chance he will play 1B unless Konerko gets hurt or needs a day off. I have hated the Dunn deal since day 1. The Sox dd not need a power bat and they only needed a contact guy who will put a ball in play to try and score a guy with 2 outs. As soon as I see Dunn come up to bat I just chalk it up as another strike-out. There is no chance of being able to trade him or even send him down to the minors. I think it is time to give Lillibridge or Viciedo some cracks playing everyday because 80+ strike-outs before the end of June is just down right PATHETIC.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Excellent points Tj…….Dunn is Dr. Strangeglove in the field and slow as an elderly driver visiting from Quebec.
    He knew he was to be the DH and occasional back-up to Paulie at 1B.
    I saw him in several games when in DC last Summer and he was awful in the field…the classic David Ortiz prototype DH, if only he could perform.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Having trouble replying to your above comment for some reason.

      Here’s my take on Wrigley: if some day the grandstand needs to be knocked down and rebuilt, so be it. As long as the bleachers, ivy and scoreboard are retained — and the marquee is put back on front AND the location remains bordered by Clark, Addison, Sheffield and Waveland — it will still be Wrigley, and I think people will still enjoy it as such.

      I would hope, though, that they would make a new exterior look essentially the same, just newer and with more amenities and bathrooms and whatnot.

      I think the most interesting thing in such a scenario — and, to be clear, I’m not calling for the grandstand be knocked down — would likely be the Cubs playing on the South Side for at least one full season. Would U.S. Cellular finally see some sellouts? Haha :)

  • Matt

    It is an interesting conversation but Adam Dunn has no significance in the conversation. Many teams (if not all) have much better DHs than Dunn this year. I’m a Sox fan and AL guy so I’m biased towards the DH. I think I should get a 1/9 refund every time I watch a pitcher bat. With that said I like the difference in the leagues. It is unique. For all the inequalities in baseball this one is such a non-issue to me. How about the fact that the Yankees have two players that have a higher pay role than the 25 man roster for Kansas City? If we want to address issues about the game these are the ones to address. But that issue, as well as eliminating the DH, won’t change because the Player’s Union will oppose. I’m not blaming them but merely stating a fact that they oppose any salary restrictions and they would oppose eliminating a position. It is far more likely the NL would get the DH so NL fans should be careful in their calls of uniformity.

    • bronzo

      well said Matt i agree 100%

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      To cut the deal, MLBPA would need to get a 26-man roster in exchange for doing away with the DH.
      I’m a traditionalist and never liked the DH ever since Ron Bloomberg first went to bat as such.
      But I suspect that the “offense is entertaining” POV will prevail. If I had to guess on any future uniformity it would be to extend the DH to the NL.
      Ugh. Shudder.

  • bronzo

    Thanks for talking White sox baseball finally Dave…allbeit it’s about Dunn. I am in total amazement on just how BAD Dunn looks at the plate. I also love the fact thathe is getting booed at the Cell….he deserves it. His body language and swing couldn’t be worse. He looks lost. I don’t know what the answer is… what do the Sox do?

    As a life long AL guy I like the DH personally…but that’s just my opinion.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      I think White Sox fans should be very concerned that with Dunn they’ve been stuck with an albatross of Alfonso Soriano-sized proportions — except even worse. Soriano has never hit anything like Dunn is right now, and while Alfonso is an adventure in the field, he at least can field his position somewhat competently (get back to me on that, though, when Alfonso is 38).

      Honestly, I think that the Sox might need to send Dunn down to the minors for a while so he can straighten out his swing without all the pressure he appears to be feeling right now.

      And, I do have thoughts about the White Sox, too (not just the Cubs, haha). Hope to share more of them as the summer wears on!

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        The Summer is frickin’ wearing!!!

      • Dave Wischnowsky

        Oh, I was definitely wearing it yesterday with that heat. Haha.


    ESPN would have broken a big story if the third largest city approved the sale of a pile of rubble. Is Wrigley as bad as Springfield Nuclear Power Plant after Burns sold it to “ooooh, The GERMANS!”?

    I, also, want nothing to do with the DH. Good joke, by the way LHA. I agree, the union would ask for a twenty six man roster. Was there, ever, a great era of DH?

    On a side note, is Fukudome in the lineup, tonight?


    Oh, the whole grand conspiracy will be one league
    and a “magic” chance meet up of the Red Sox and the Yankees in the World Series.
    Then, the rest of the country can focus on their DVD collections.

    Happy Summer, guys!

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      gonna be a looooong, hot summer with the Sox and Cubs, and especially without ZZ/LoHo Bears Training Camp Reports
      Oh wait, maybe that’s a good thing!

      some frickin’ storm last night, eh?

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    Can’t believe that Dunn won’t come out of this eventually; I suppose he’s so messed up in the head it may not happen this year, though I still see him getting back to being “Adam Dunn.” But if not this year, he’ll figure out what the problem was in the off season – way to much talent for his skills to have diminished this quickly at the age of 31.

    I’m still very curious why his defense is so poor. While he is a huge man, he really is/was quite an athlete in his younger days. I remember him being a highly touted quarterback prospect with many colleges chasing after him; I believe he committed to play at the University of Texas before signing with the Reds. What happened?

    Ah, the DH argument. As a lifelong fan of the “senior circuit” I’ve never liked the DH. I’ll take NL ball over AL ball any day of the week. (I watch both extensively, baseball is baseball for the most part, so I’m not being partial to one league or the other in terms of viewing.) There’s just so much more nuances in the NL with the pitcher having to bat, much more to think about. But then again, I’d rather watch a 1-0, 2-1 game than a 10-8 slugfest, so I suppose it’s all just a matter of taste. But the DH is here to stay I would think. The player’s union will never relinquish the DH; even expanding to a 26 man roster wouldn’t do it I don’t think. Adding a league minimum player in exchange for a player with the possibility of making many millions doesn’t make sense for them financially.


      And, the god of thunder is still getting free publicity for his movie tonight as well, it looks like. Or, maybe Storm from X-Men: First Class.

      Murph’s U-L You brought up some good points. I guess, guys like Chris Chelios and Brett Favre are few and far between. (Jer-ro-mir Jag-wire? I doubt it). Think about how dramatically Yao Ming aged. He must’ve lost flexibility.

      It’s not good for the league to watch a guy who has one job and get paid millions to not be able to do it. DH by committee is the future of that spot. Anyone who thinks they are going to get Albert Pujhols circa 2006 will be wrong. Although, $300,000,000 might just buy them a time-machine. Maybe, they comb beaches for Jeanie’s bottle.

  • J-Dubya

    The only average that matters when determining whether or not the DH makes sense is the average in the No. 9 slot. In other words, does the No. 9 hitter in the AL bat as well as a NL pitcher.

    I tried to find the actual number but I couldn’t. I heard once that the AL number is slightly lower or higher than the NL, but nothin material.

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