There’s been plenty of reinvigorated talk about the homogenization of baseball, and thus the addition of the designated hitter to the National League. Players union chief Tony Clark has stated that talks are “gaining momentum” of late.
Players union chief Tony Clark said talk among players about adopting a universal DH (thus adding to NL) are “gaining momentum”
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 17, 2018
There are plenty of instances, some of which I have talked about here, in which the MLB doesn’t have the best interest of the game at heart. I truly believe this is one of those cases. The designated hitter is horrible for baseball, and while homogenization of both leagues is past due, it should be stripping the DH from the American League, and bringing baseball back to its truest form.
Baseball isn’t like most other sports. The average person can’t sit down on their couch for the first time in weeks, turn on the game, and understand completely what is going on. That hypothetical person wouldn’t even come close to understanding the intricacies of the sport.
Baseball is 95% chess match. It’s more a strategic game than a talent-based game. More thought goes into every action of a baseball game than any other sport.
While managers do lots of things behind the scenes, their in-game prevalence, calling the shots, is perhaps the biggest role on the team. Managers get constant backlash from fans about how they set their lineup, manage their bullpen, etc.
To be a baseball fan, you must enjoy this part of the game. Unlike basketball, hockey, or even football, the constant downtime, strategic games, and mental games are necessary for a baseball fan to enjoy. And with that comes the designated hitter or lack thereof.
For a true baseball fan, I cannot fathom an argument as to why the designated hitter is good for the game. With the designated hitter, a lot of strategic decisions go to the wayside. Managers in the American League don’t need to make decisions based on where the pitcher hits next. They don’t need to decide between a sacrifice bunt or a pitcher at bat.
Quite frankly, the game is undisputedly easier on the managers in the American League. A manager’s job is in no way easy, but fifteen guys are making their money a lot easier than the other fifteen. By adding the designated hitter, the American League is dumbing down the game of baseball. They are attempting to take away the strategy and take away the need for intelligence about the game. Every true, long-term baseball fan should be completely up in arms about this.
As a true baseball fan, I see the constant strategic decisions relating to the nine spot in the order as a necessity. That’s how the game of baseball is played; if you play in the field, you swing the bat.
That brings me to the other major flaw with the designated hitter. The designated hitter promotes the ignorance of a whole part of the game.
Guys like David Ortiz or Edgar Martinez, two incredible hitters and future hall of famers, were only close to being above average in two tools: hitting and power. While you can’t blame them, because they know their role within their teams, you can blame Major League Baseball for allowing this.
There’s also no entertainment value of watching these guys swing the bat. We’ve come to accept that, if you don’t have to focus on the field at all, you are going to be a pretty good hitter. That’s common sense. There isn’t an MLB At Bat notification that pops up for every JD Martinez home run.
However, when Carlos Zambrano hits six home runs in a season or Michael Lorenzen hits three in consecutive at-bats, you take notice. Sure, it gets annoying sometimes when the pitcher’s spot comes up with guys on base and two outs early in the game, but one has to realize it’s better for the game.
When DH advocates bring up hitters’ slash lines, one thing that never gets talked about is the AL’s track record in the nine hole. Sure, the AL’s 9-hitters hit better than the NL’s pitchers, but they still hit at a .220/.284/.341 slash line, good for only 71 wRC+.
I fail to see how the MLB can justify getting rid of a massive part of their game to instead ensure that players that collectively hit like that get three/four at-bats a game.
I consider myself to be a baseball traditionalist, and while I wholeheartedly accept things like the use analytics into the game, there’s a lot of stuff I wish would revert to “the old times.” Make the leagues consistent; ban the designated hitter, and return baseball to the way it should be played, and the way every fan should want it to be played.