By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Full disclosure: I have never been a fan of the designated hitter. It is a traditionalist, pathos-driven feeling in me that is probably more due to stubbornness than anything logical.
That being said, the National League needs to adopt it. Enough of this two leagues with different rules nonsense. Now that there are an equal number of teams in both the American and National Leagues—and therefore interleague play occurring at all times during the season—there is no reason such a separation should exist.
Ideally for my selfishness, the American League would go back to making the pitchers step to the plate. There is pretty much zero chance of the happening, though, so the second best option is making the DH universal.
“I think we’re going to see the DH in the National League,” Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein said recently. “Hopefully we’re just a few years away.”
He’s probably right, and I would expect the change would come sooner than a few years from now. Major League Baseball has to realize the absurdity of being the only major sport that has varying rules depending on where a game is being played. In evening out the number of teams in both leagues—something that was always pretty odd before—what should stop Bud Selig or his hopefully competent replacement from evening out the rules in those leagues as well? Never put it past Selig to do something that would make sense, though.
I get the counterarguments of those who would refuse to let the last bastion of baseball purity collapse. If you hit, you should play the field like everyone else, and vice versa. Seems logical. If a pitcher can hit people, shouldn’t he have to bat? It makes sense to not let a guy use the ball as a weapon without having to answer for it.
But half of the highest professional league already uses the DH and has done so for a long time. Forty years, to be exact. And it’s not going away. Having half of your games played by different rules than the others is asinine. And even a guy like me who isn’t a fan of the DH still sees its positives.
Remember that “Chicks dig the long ball” campaign that was so successful? That’s because it’s true—not just chicks, but Joe Fan in general. Students of the game appreciate a pitching duel, but for a public with the attention span of a hummingbird on meth, runs attract a crowd. Hipster baseball elitists don’t like to hear that, but people avoiding the game you love because of boredom isn’t a good thing.
And perhaps the purists could get on board for this reason—a universal DH might cut down on the rash of no-hitters we’ve been seeing. No-hitters used to be the comets of baseball, coming along every once in a while, and you hoping to be lucky enough to be a witness. In 2012 there were seven of them. There were six in 2010. Of the twenty perfect games thrown in Major League history, six have been done so since 2009. Something just isn’t right about that. More no hitters have been thrown in AL parks than NL ones since the DH was instituted, but not having a pitcher step to the plate twice would certainly decrease the odds of one and help return no-hitters to more of their rare form.
Fiscally a lack of a DH is dumb because no team should be forced to bench millions of dollars. Adam Dunn of the White Sox will make $15 million in 2013. How infuriating for White Sox general manager Rick Hahn to have that contract sitting down for several games. “But then Dunn should be a better defensive player. The DH allows for incomplete players.” Then the game shouldn’t have pitchers that specialize in just one inning or just getting out lefties either, I guess.
And let’s just admit it. Watching pitchers hit is embarrassing. Yeah, sure, once in a while they hit a home run. Great. It’s not worth the painful viewing 90 percent of the time. And speaking of salaries, pitchers are paid to pitch, not hit. And many are paid quite a lot. The potential for injury swinging a bat or running the bases should not even enter the equation then. A person staunchly opposed to the DH might be singing a different tune if his or her favorite ace pulled a ribcage muscle whiffing on a pitch or jammed a finger sliding into a base.
Pitchers are also often called on to bunt runners over. Sacrificing, though, has been proven to often do more damage than help teams. I understand that pitchers usually being weak hitters means that a sacrifice bunt might be the most productive option with runners on, but why even be confronted with that option. Put a player paid to hit up there instead (and then if a manager wants to still bunt, that’s his problem).
Ultimately, though, it gets back to uniformity. There is no rational explanation for having fifteen ballparks with a different rule than fifteen others. If the DH isn’t going away, it should then be ubiquitous. While I hate the rule in the first place, I hate things that don’t make sense more.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.