Designated Hitter coming soon to National League

Goodbye strategy and good baseball, hello designated hitter. Photo: David Ortiz at bat AP/Elise Amendola

LOS ANGELES, April 1, 2013 — Last night the Major League Baseball season officially started with the Texas Rangers getting walloped by the Houston Astros. Today, the season kicks off for the rest of the teams in baseball.

The Cincinnati Reds will for the first time play host to an American League team, the Anaheim Angels, to start the season. Thanks to the Astros’ move this year from the National League to the American League, both the American and National Leagues have 15 teams each. There will now be at least one interleague series going at all times.

Some have wondered if this signals an eventual expansion with one new team being added to both leagues to give them an even 16 teams each. A far more sinister motive is more likely. Baseball is not going to add more teams; it is going to add the Designated Hitter rule to the National League.

Ronald Blomberg was the first designated hitter in 1973. Photo: AP/Harry Harris

The American League has used the Designated Hitter rule since 1973. The rule is ridiculous and takes a lot of strategy out of the game. Since the American League started using it, there has been a debate over which league was at a disadvantage when the two leagues play in the World Series.

The debate intensified when interleague play was introduced in 1997. With the National and American Leagues facing off more often during the regular season, fans from both sides cried foul when their respective teams were playing in the other league’s home parks.

American League fans said it was unfair because their teams were forced to either bench their usual designated hitter in favor of the everyday defender or bench the everyday defender so the designated hitter’s bat could still be in the lineup. National League fans were upset because when playing in an American League ballpark, they were forced to use a bench player in their everyday lineup.

There is no way the Major League Baseball Players Association will ever agree to rescind the DH rule in the American League because that will make some of their older, less mobile members lose their jobs. From their standpoint, it makes more sense to simply add the DH rule to the National League. Then instead of players losing their jobs, more players in the twilight of their careers can keep the gig going for a few more years in the NL.

The National League has remained steadfast in their refusal to add the DH rule, even in the face of the few weeks of interleague play from 1997 through 2012. Now that they are forced to deal with interleague play on a daily basis, that may change sooner rather than later. And when it does eventually change, baseball too will forever change.

Gone will be the many strategies associated with having a pitcher bat. Replacing strategy will be a dumbed down version of a once great sport. The thinking man’s game will become once more suited for the every man. 

No need to worry about pinch-hitting for a pitcher in a crucial situation on offense. No need to worry about whether or not to bring a pitcher in late in a game knowing the pitcher’s spot is set to lead off the following inning.

The only things left for the manager to decide are whether to yank his pitcher because he is tired and whether or not it would be beneficial to yank a pitcher in favor of a lefty-lefty or righty-righty match up. A monkey can be taught to make those decisions.

Enjoy the DH-less National League games while you can. There will soon come a day when you will tell your children or grandchildren, “In my day, pitchers used to take their turn at bat and that’s the way we liked it.”

Kevin J. Wells writes about Major League Baseball and punk rock music.  Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball


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Kevin Wells

Kevin J. Wells was born and raised in the Los Angeles area in a town called Montrose.  He currently plays guitar for and is a founding member of the Los Angeles punk rock band Emmer Effer.  He has worked in a number of different career fields including Behavioral Therapy, Commodities, Insurance, and most recently a food cart in Portland, OR.

 

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