Why The NL Should Incorporate The Designated Hitter
You’re a NL General Manager. You just outbid several different MLB teams for the rights to one of the top free agent pitchers in the game. You have a young pitching staff with a lot of promise and your new prize will hopefully lead you to the Promised Land.
Your new acquisition is an amazing all-around athlete in addition to being a Cy Young Award winning candidate. He convinced you during your meetings that he was once a great hitter in college or in high school and is excited to again grab a bat and contribute to the offense.
Three weeks into the season, your new ace is 2-0 and has your team at the top of the standings. You are extremely satisfied—and relieved, because the huge contract you offered to your new pitcher is already paying dividends—in ticket sales, merchandising and the fans love him.
Then he pounds an off-speed pitch into the dirt towards the mound during his second at-bat of his third start and stumbles awkwardly out of the batter’s box. He, as any competitor would do, runs his hardest to first base, knowing he will most likely be thrown out. As he crosses the bag under the out sign from the umpire, he slows up gingerly and limps into the dugout.
After trainers check him out, your manager pulls him out of the game for precautionary reasons. Following an MRI the next morning it is diagnosed that your new multi-million dollar free agent pitching acquisition has a pulled oblique or hamstring and will go on the disabled list.
Such injuries to a power pitcher can be devastating given the nature of the physical mechanics used while playing in a game. There is a good chance, even after coming back from the stint on the DL, that your ace will return to dominating form. There is also the chance that he will not. And… may never again. Sorry if I’ve made you nauseous. That means you understand where I’m going with this. You may also be rolling your eyes, about now, at the absurdity of this tale claiming over-dramatization.
No matter which way you’re leaning, I am saying that pitchers should no longer be required to hit for themselves as members of a NL baseball team. The Designated Hitter should be incorporated into the NL just as it has been a part of the AL since 1973.
Even though I created a worse-case scenario to open this argument with an injury to a high-priced pitcher on a team’s roster, there are other reasons to support this, and they are all basically good for the modernization of the game.
In today’s professional sports we have specialization down to a guy getting paid to simply hike a football from between his legs seven yards to a holder so it can be kicked for a field goal. The same applies in baseball. Every team in the league has at least two pitchers who are there strictly for a match-up situation that favors the defense, even though that situation may arise once every other series. In no circumstance would that pitcher be asked to take a bat and step into the batter’s box and hit for himself–just as the hiker of the football would never be asked to kick it.
Today’s MLB is in dire need of offense. They’ve tried juiced balls and even juiced players in the past and both were absolutely adored until the haters stepped up crying foul.
There must be a way to add another REAL hitter to the line-up. A guy who would simply sit in the dugout with a bat in hand waiting for his next turn to hit. Wait! There is! It’s called the Designated Hitter and it is used in the AL. And with great success, I might add.
I know the old school train of thought that it is part of the sportsmanship of the game of baseball to have the pitcher bat, whether or not he is any good at it. It puts the emphasis of strategy in the game squarely on the shoulders of the manager. That’s good, right? No! It’s not good. Why would baseball fans want that? I don’t want to see a game of full-blown chess between Bruce Bochy and Mike Matheny. I want to see a player paid to hit step in to face a player paid to pitch.
Think of the employment opportunities this creates in the game as well. Sure, the game is getting younger and younger, but many a player with slowing legs or reflexes with the glove are out there looking for a gig. And unless they’re just too stubborn to realize their time may have past as a full-time player, should come fairly cheap.
A lot of today’s AL managers use a variety of hitters to take turns in the DH spot. It gives them an extra pawn—for all you managerial strategy buffs. A first baseman in the AL, such as Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees can take off a “half-day” by letting regular DH Alex Rodriguez man first base. This also keeps another solid bat in the line-up in Chase Headley. It also aids in helping keep a couple of aging players a little healthier—if not less weary. If Don Mattingly wanted to give Adrian Gonzalez a “half-day” off, he’d have to give him the whole day off.
For my money. I want to see Teixiera AND Rodriguez AND Headley in the line-up. Not one on the bench waiting to replace the other late in the game—or not at all.
Washington Nationals newly acquired ace, Max Scherzer recently said he thinks the NL should adopt the DH rule. The same rule he enjoyed with great success in Detroit as a member of the AL Tigers. Did it not go into Scherzer’s thinking while being wooed by several teams this winter that he would have to bat if he signed in the NL?
Maybe it’s an ego thing. Sure, chicks dig the long ball, but I think they’d dig it longer if it were hit by the team’s DH while the team’s ace was mowing down the opposition’s batting order.
Whether it be instilled as insurance against injuries to a pitcher that probably would not have happened if he were not batting, or to create job openings for players who can still rake, or to put fannies in the seats because there is an extra slugger in the game, the NL needs to incorporate the DH in the same manner as the AL.