Rumor has it that the commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, is looking at instituting the DH in the National League. My gut reaction is, an unequivocal…Hell NO! I believe in the tradition of the game. The reason the National League is called the “Senior Circuit” is because it is the league that holds on to the tradition of making the pitcher a part of the hitting lineup in keeping with how the game originated. That being said, I really like the style of American League baseball that allows games to be decided between 2 lineups filled with hitters facing quality pitching focused on 1 thing…pitching. There’s a slight arrogance and stubbornness of NL pitchers who believe that they are an important piece of a lineup. Numbers would tell us otherwise, with the exception of a few outliers. Not to mention that pitchers are log jams on the base paths. I also like that the DH rule allows diversity between both leagues. If both leagues have the DH, then why have Leagues? Just have 8 divisions, the schedule is already allowing for interleague play all season. With both leagues using the DH I think this would allow for a more balanced schedule because there wouldn’t be a need to play “X” amount of games in their perspective leagues.
Would there be enough designated hitters to supply 30 teams? Granted, any position player filling the void of the pitcher would be an upgrade. For years the DH has been regulated by 2 types of players: 1) The older player who has lost range, ability and desire to play in the field. 2) The player who’s hitting ability is far greater than his ability to play in the field. Let’s be honest, there are few AL teams that have the luxury of rotating players from the field through the DH spot. Still, choosing who to DH is an easier decision on daily basis than choosing who to pinch hit or double switch during the 7th inning of a tight ball game. I’ve always felt that managing an AL team was easier than NL managers. AL managers don’t have to deal with too many in game position player moves. A lot depends on the personal of each team but for the most part AL manager can focus less on when to use a pinch hitter or make that double switch late in games. AL managers can shift their focus more to the pitching side of the game because once the lineup is set, they most likely will finish the game with that lineup. Health is an issue too. In the American League, managers don’t have the added worry of injury to a pitcher during an at bat or while running the bases. The simple fact is that pitchers do not work on base running, at all! The term “station to station” was invented to describe pitchers running the bases. They lack the basic survival skills to run the bases. Whether it’s tactical or technique there have been many cases throughout the years where pitchers have cost their team success and sometimes even injury due to bad judgement and inexperience. This can have long term effects on a ball club and their own career. Chien-Min Wang is a case that jumps to my attention. Astro and Yankee fans remember back in ’08 or ’09, the Yankees were in Houston and Wang turned 3rd headed for home and about broke his ankle stumbling over home plate.
How about what it will do with NL rosters? I made a career out of being that “super utility, double switch, pinch hitter guy”. If it wasn’t for the NL rules, I probably would have had a much shorter career and not as many opportunities (PA’s) as I did. Rosters would be adjusted to accommodate having a need for a full time hitter and would most likely allow for 1 more pitcher to be added to the bullpen. Good for pitchers, bad for role players trying to sustain a career.
Not sure how this rule change would affect the World Series. It seems that both teams that make it that far are pretty damn good anyways and supply quality competition. Yet, I felt that the NL always had an advantage in their home park during such a crucial part of the World Series. A distinct home field advantage. NL pitchers have been hitting/bunting all year. They are accustomed to situations, understanding the expectation of them and a certain comfortability having done it all season. AL pitchers maybe have had 8 AB’s total in a full season before being asked to grab a stick and handle it effectively during what could be the biggest AB of their season, if not their career! Also, we always hear story lines regarding what the AL manager will do with his DH in NL parks. Will he wait for a key pinch hitting opportunity late in a game against the opposing closer after sitting for 3 hours? Or, will he allow him to play and hit even if he is a defensive liability?
As I said before, I’m partial to the NL because of the flexibility of the roster to allow for guys with a unique skill set that can play multiple positions and switch hit. I know that if the DH is implemented in both leagues, those role players will not be eliminated entirely but there will surely be less of them. It will be interesting to see how organizations handle player development when the player can hit yet, not play adequate defensively. This discussion has undoubtedly placed the significance on the Designated Hitter in the world of baseball. Will this open the Hall of Fame door for Edgar Martinez and Big Papi because of the importance being placed on having a productive DH in the lineup or will it cause the statistical bar to be set a little higher because they are only hitters?
I hope it opens the door.