Recently MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark indicated that there will be renewed discussions with the league, owners etc. with regards to implementing the Designated Hitter in the National League. The National League is the only league remaining in the world that does not use a DH. You might be shocked to know that nearly all the minor leagues in the National League use a DH. I have long held the position that the DH should have been implemented in the National League back in 1973 when it became a rule in the American League. Contrary to popular belief by the baseball “traditionalist” out there the DH was first proposed in the National League as early as 1891. William Chase Temple, the co-owner of the Pirates first proposed the idea to the National League rules committee. In 1928 the National League president John Heydler also took a swing at it without getting anywhere. The league, owners and managers recognized very early on that the majority of pitchers were simply not competitive at the plate.
There are many reasons at the MLB level that I feel it should be used in both leagues. Making the case for the DH goes far deeper then what is happening at the MLB level. However, I will mention a few of those reasons first and then go into the much deeper ones.
Inter-league and World Series: The use or non-use of the DH creates a disadvantage for American League teams that spend nearly an entire season playing the game one way and then have to change. Where are all the supporters of the “integrity of the game” issues now?
A better product to watch: Sorry National League fans but when I see 7, 8 and 9 coming up in the order in your league it is time to go get a beer or hit the men’s room. Pitchers are generally automatic outs and when they get a hit the announcers laugh and the players in the dugout laugh. What does that tell you? It tells me that a pitcher hitting is not taken seriously in any way shape or form at the MLB level. In over 5000 at bats in 2014 the pitchers hit for a combined average of .124. I am pretty sure that I can do better than that!
Lack of strategy in the game: Don’t you dare try to even use this argument. Nobody spends money on high ticket prices then jumps in their car, heads out to the stadium for several hours and says “boy oh boy, I can’t wait to see Matt Harvey sacrifice bunt in the 7th inning”. People do not watch baseball to see if a pitcher can get a bunt down or to see if a manager will pinch hit for somebody. If that is what you are into then I think checkers should be a spectator sport for you.
I could go on and on with many more reasons related to the playing and watching of Major League games and why the National League should have the DH. However there are more far reaching reasons why this makes sense to finally stop the madness.
I am 50 years old but I can remember my high school and college baseball days pretty well. The pitchers, generally speaking, did not hit in the batting order and that was in the mid 1980’s. The transformation at those levels was probably already well in place by that time. Even the worst pitcher in the majors was likely a star pitcher early on in his life. So as is the case with star pitchers that by the time they get to junior high the emphasis became more on the pitching and not the hitting. As I previously stated this was going on when I was playing high school and college ball over 30 years ago. Unless the pitcher was just an incredible hitter most coaches preferred to keep his star pitcher off the base paths and out of the batter’s box. The coach got the piece of mind that his pitcher had less risk of an injury as well as keeping the legs fresh for the pitching. In addition to that the coach got the flexibility of getting another player on the field in the form of a DH. Right or wrong this is what started 35+ years ago in high school, college and summer leagues all over this country. The results of this change in how games are managed at the lowest of levels has translated into pitchers that are worse hitters today than in 1891 when the subject was first broached by the Pirates owner in the National League.
We have created a scenario where the results could only and have only become increasingly bad. The future MLB pitcher stops hitting regularly at about age 14. Let’s say he arrives in the majors at age 24. To get to that point of high level play you can bet your bottom dollar that the pitcher spent all his time working on pitching and not hitting. Now you are asking that pitcher to pick up a bat and face Clayton Kershaw 3 or 4 times in a game and have some success when the guy has not swung a bat in 10 years. To add insult to injury now you are asking that same pitcher to hit in a game once every 5 or 6 days and be successful at it. This does not make a whole lot of sense now does it ? It is hard enough for back up catchers and the fifth outfielder on a team to do well once a week and they have been hitting there entire lives. Not to mention they take BP every day to hone their skills which pitchers do not do.
It is far past the time for the DH to make its National League debut. I don’t think it is a question of if anymore but a question of when. I think it will be in place in less than 3 years. So get your last final looks at Bartolo Colon taking his hacks folks. All the fans that don’t want the DH should jump out of your seat as much as possible, while you still can, when you watch your pitcher foul off the third strike on a bunt attempt . Soon these non competitive embarrassing at bats will become a thing of the past. It has long past the time for this to happen.