Baseball and the Designated Hitter

davidortizAs the baseball season is winding down and interleague play continues, it has become clear that the designated hitter must become a part of the National League. Crucial games are being played involving teams being put at distinctive disadvantages. For example, the Yankees are playing the Mets this weekend and their best hitter, A-Rod, is glued to the bench except when a pinch hitting opportunity arises. This is unfair to the team, to the fans at the stadium and to the television audience.

Originally during the DH era, interleague play only occurred during the World Series. Teams went for broke and were willing to stick a Big Papi at first base for a couple of games, at that point it was all or nothing. More recently, interleague play was limited and ended relatively early in the season. Now that it has become a full time gig, it is time for the playing fields to be equal. We know that the powerful MLB Players Association will never allow the DH to be eliminated from the American League, therefore the only option is to add it to the National League.

Baseball “purists” moan and groan that the game is not meant to be played with a DH and that the “fabric of baseball will be permanently altered”, but this “alteration” has been going on for decades as follows:

Throwing at Batters

Back in the day, if you hit one out of the park against Gibson or Drysdale and more recently against Clemens, or just were crowding the plate, you were at the very least brushed back and frequently hit. Today batters lean over the plate knowing that getting thrown at could lead to immediate pitcher ejection and certainly double warnings to both teams. This is a positive step, the last thing anyone wants to see is a batter getting beaned, but it certainly has changed the fabric of baseball. Ask the batters hit by Gibson or Drysdale, two Hall of Famers I might add.

Base Stealing

In 1962 Maury Wills stole 104 bases, Lou Brock stole 118 in 1974, and Ricky Henderson stole 130 in 1982. Putting that in perspective, Ricky in essence hit 130 doubles in a single season, since after singling or walking he always ended up on second base. Bottom line, you never got up to pee when Ricky was on first. Today, thanks to the sabermetricians waiting for the long ball (how many World Series has Billy Beane won?) and concern over injury, base stealing is way down, changing not only the fabric but the excitement of the game.

Bunting

Once upon a time, ballplayers knew how to bunt and it was used as an important tool to move runners along. Today, again thanks to the sabermetricians, teams don’t want to give up an out, so bunting (except by NL pitchers) has virtually disappeared. There was no more exciting play in baseball than a “suicide squeeze”, I can’t remember the last time I saw one.

Fielding Shifts

It used to be that a 3rd baseman played 3rd, the shortstop played short and the 2nd baseman played 2nd. Now when a lefty pull hitter is up, the 3rd baseman plays short, the shortstop plays 2nd and the 2nd baseman plays short rightfield. I remember there being a short outfielder in softball but in baseball? How many times have I seen Teixiera or McCann hit what appeared to be a clean single to right, only to get thrown out at 1st?  If you want to maintain the fabric of baseball, mandate the number of infielders that can be on one side of the field as the NFL does with offensive linemen. Is that going to be done? Unlikely.

Umpiring

Nothing was better than watching a manager and umpire go toe to toe spitting tobacco juice all over each other debating a call. Now, except for an occasional ball/strike debate, the arguments are a thing of the past as most other calls are subject to video review. Clearly, the technology is available, it should be used, but it sure is a radical change. My guess is that one day in the not too distant future ball and strike calls will be subject to review as well.

I could continue pointing out how much the game has changed over the decades. Except for Jose Bautista, name a rightfielder with a gun for an arm, making taking 3rd base an exciting play. Certainly not Beltran on the Yanks or Granderson on the Mets, today outfielders have good gloves and (maybe) speed, arms are reserved for 95mph throwing pitchers. Where have you gone Colavito and Kaline? The great Clemente could throw out a runner at 3rd from the right field wall.

So let’s get real MLB,  I don’t want to see Arod or even Yankee nemesis David Ortiz sitting on the pine during crucial games. If constant interleague play is here to stay, it is clearly time to have the DH  in both leagues.

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