Recently, I heard a couple guys at my college debating about whether Major League Baseball should continue to use the Designated Hitter or not. To me, this is just silly. I'm sorry, but frankly, I'm surprised that the National League continues to avoid using the DH. It's become such an integral part of the game, and virtually every league (American League, Mexican League, Japanese Nippon Pacific League, most minor league teams) uses the DH. The NL's policy of letting the pitcher hit ninth is a dying breed. Why bother? A few years ago, we saw the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang get injured while running the basepaths in an NL park due to interleague play. He hasn't been the same since and one only hopes that he can continue to make a successful comeback with the Washington Nationals (where he has to hit... hm). The Pittsburgh Pirates traded for A.J. Burnett in February, only to have him get injured in batting practice of all things, and he immediately had to go on the DL. Two months later, he is now finally back. Why should we risk hurting pitchers when their job is to pitch, not to hit?
Follow the jump for my idea of more dingers and less dinged-up pitchers.
Every time a pitcher suffers an injury in the NL style of play, this debate resurfaces. Traditionalists who wish to hearken back to older days of baseball and love the strategies in NL-style of play want the NL to never adopt the DH. Do you think a casual baseball fan cares that much about the double switch? No. They would rather see a big strong guy like Frank Thomas (above right) smack the ball out of the park than see some pitcher that most likely hasn't batted regularly since high school strike out embarrassingly. Yes, it's cool when a pitcher like Carlos Zambrano comes out of nowhere and hits a home run to shock the other team, but this is not the case most of the time. Most pitchers' batting average hover around the .100s, which is just a joke. Why put a give-up in the lineup? So we can see more bunts and pinch-hitters? Again, I'd rather see a guy like Frank Thomas cream it.
As noted above, because the NL is one of only a few pro leagues to still make pitchers bat, most pitchers do not have much experience hitting. So when they join the National League, the team is agreeing to essentially throw an amateur hitter out there in the lineup every day. He might get hit by a pitch on the elbow and hurt himself, rendering him unable to pitch, which is his main job. He could also hurt himself straining a hamstring on the basepaths or all sorts of other ways. Why take the risk?
One theory is that removing the DH will make the games shorter and get more fans interested in the game. Yeah, right. Yes, the DH creates more offense, which creates a longer game, but again, would the casual fan prefer to see a 1-0 game or a 9-6 game? Pitching is a hard task to really appreciate, and unless it's an exceptionally well-pitched game (complete game, less than three hits, etc.), the viewers will often leave wanting more. I don't even think the DH slows the game up that much anyway. Double switching forces managers to go out, talk to the umpire, take his pitcher out, take another fielder out, replace both of them, and switch the lineups. The opposing manager can complicate this even further by sending in a pinch hitter for the original batter and waste even more time. This process does not take fewer than three minutes. Managers will most likely go to the bullpen more often in the NL than the AL because they are sometimes forced to pinch-hit for their pitcher if they have an opportunity in the latter stages of the game to take the lead. Going to the bullpen also takes time. So how is all this missed time doing nothing better than a guy hitting a big double and entertaining the fans more?
I love the DH, and the sooner the NL adopts it, the better. Sure, the traditionalists will be furious for awhile, but they'll get over it, like they did when the AL adopted it. So many injuries could be avoided and so many more exciting moments could happen in a pure-DH game. We will see it someday, it's just a matter of when. Probably when the defending NL Cy Young Award winner badly injures him at the plate or on the bases. That'll get 'em cookin'. They needed controversy to get instant replay on homers and balls hit down the line, so they probably need more to change again.