By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) As ill-fated arguments go, those against marriage equality have nothing on the attempts to rationalize MLB pitchers being required to hit.
Grumbling traditionalists have no substantive position in either case and are beginning to concede that the other side – the correct one – is likely to prevail, perhaps sooner than expected. Preferring something just because it keeps you comfortable isn’t the same as justifying it objectively.
The injury to Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright was merely the latest bit of evidence mounting for the adoption of the designated hitter in the National League, putting the silliness and needless risk in specific focus once again. It was a big enough name for a good enough team to drive the conversation closer to an obvious conclusion, described by many of the game’s thoughtful voices.
“That ship has sailed,” veteran Cubs TV voice Len Kasper told 670 The Score. “We’re getting to a point where the rules just have to be that same. It’s an inevitability that we’re going to have the DH league-wide. We’re kinda dinosaurs here. I think in the end we want our star players to do what they do best, and for pitchers, they need to pitch.”
Imagine a different rule in football’s NFC or AFC, one that requires a placekicker to take a snap from center four times per game or for the punter to recieve a handoff and charge down field. Consider if half of the NHL had a tradition of forcing goaltenders to log a handful of shifts each game at right wing for no apparent good reason.
That’s what this is, the stupidity of asking pitchers to hit in the NL, and it should stop. When Kasper describes the league as “dinosaurs,” he’s noting that every other baseball league everywhere makes proper use of the DH. From high school to college to every level of the minor leagues and most every international version of the game, it’s ubiquitous.
Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated agrees.
“The DH should be universal because it makes for a better game of baseball,” he wrote Monday in his subscription newsletter. “Pitchers are a class of baseball player unto themselves, and I know this because Twitter goes nuts every time someone outside that class is tasked with taking the mound. I know this because pitchers don’t play other positions when they are not pitching. I know this because when a pitcher bats anywhere but ninth, it causes statheads to lose their minds and their fathers to lose their tempers. Pitchers are different, they have been for 130 years, and it’s long past time to accept that. Bring on the universal designated hitter.”
Swimming against the tide of logic is writer Joe Posnanski, who argues in squishy, bizarre fashion against the increasing MLB standardization, wanting more differences between the American and National leagues. He knows he’s being weird, even titling his essay “A Strange Argument,” and it sure is.
“I have this dream,” he writes, “one I know will never come true – that baseball will realize the value of having different leagues with different philosophies about what baseball is all about. The last bastion of that is the DH. It’s the one thing that makes the National League and the American League different.”
Nothing bolsters the reasoning behind this or explains what that value is, however, and his resulting conclusion is equally odd.
“I may not like pitchers hitting,” Posnanski explains. “I may not be willing to defend the logic of it, but I’d still like for pitchers to hit in the National League. I don’t have to like it. That’s a National League thing. And I am, from birth, an American League person.”
How he typed any of that while wearing a straightjacket in his padded room at the mental hospital, we’ll never know.
That such a countervailing position has to be so disconnected from any kind of reality is the point. If Posnanski was making his case to a judge, it would be dismantled and lampooned in a way similar to what Richard Posner did to Wisconsin and Indiana’s combined attempt to keep their ridiculous gay marriage bans intact. The pitcher batting is the wrong side of history, and not long for existence.
As Kasper said, “It’s when, not if.”