By George Ofman-
(CBS) I love baseball. My affair with the game goes back over 50 years when I was child emulating longtime broadcaster Jack Brickhouse on the gravel field of Hibbard Elementary School in Albany Park.
I saw my first White Sox game in 1964, my first Cubs game in ‘65 and remember both of them. I have covered the game as a professional since 1978. I’m not a stats geek, just a reporter and fan of the game.
Now it’s time for baseball to pay me back by straightening out its act. It is the only sport with different rules for different leagues. It started with the 1976 World Series when baseball decided to apply the Designated Hitter to all games but only in even numbered years. By 1985, the lords of the game figured this was so dumb they simply declared its use only in American League parks. Then came interleague, and baseball put a punctuation mark on a stat you don’t see, just sense. It’s I for ignorant. Since then, American League teams can’t use the DH rule in the National League while the Senior Circuit is allowed to employ it when visiting A.L parks.
This is just plain stupid and unacceptable especially since there is now an interleague game just about every day of the season.
None of the other major sports have different rules for different conferences. Icing is icing in the Eastern and Western Conference of the NHL. Double dribble is double dribble in the NBA. Holding is holding in football, even if J’Marcus Webb was playing in the NFC or AFC.
But baseball has the distinction of being different. And it shouldn’t be.
This is not about whether the DH should be adopted by the National League or abolished. It’s more about why the lords of game haven’t addressed it properly. Why should the White Sox, for example, be forced to either sit Adam Dunn or send him out to left field as if he was a sacrificial lamb? Of course, the way he’s hitting, or in this case isn’t, it might be best if Robin Ventura assign Dunn the designated sitter. But that is a story for another column. Why should the A.L. be punished when it plays in an N.L. park? And why should the National League be forced to find a DH when it arrives at The Cell or Fenway.
Stupid. Just plain stupid.
Advocates for the DH believe it adds more offense to the game and eliminates the pitcher from hitting since most can’t. Naysayers believe it takes all the strategy out of the game.
They’re both right.
But problem runs deeper. The players’ association plays a huge role in this. It clearly wants to see the National League add the DH because it would add more jobs which means 15 teams would have to pony up more dough. Abolishing the DH would mean abolishing 15 jobs in the American League and the MLBPA would sooner swallow a lump of coal with a side of tar than do that.
What Bud Selig needs is an ounce of courage and a pound of heart. He needs to twist some arms or hire Carlos Quentin to get the point across. He needs to sit both league owners in one room, preferably not one in Washington where nothing gets done, and have them agree to one or the other: the other likely being the National League acquiescing to the DH, and get it over with.
While the popularity of baseball remains strong, the game’s fabric is being torn by its reckless disregard for uniformity when it comes to rules. Let’s go Bud and while we’re at it, how about instant replay?
George Ofman is a sports anchor and reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM. Look for him on Facebook and find him on Twitter at @georgeofman.