I’m a child of the late-80s/early-90s. Therefore I’ve never known a time before designated hitters, except on ESPN Classic and tedious Ken Burns documentaries.
I’ve tried to watch National League games, but for the most part they put me to sleep. Low soccer scores. People who can’t hit at the plate. NL fans say the National League is like chess and the American League is like checkers. AL fans say the American League is like baseball and the National League is like some weird British sport like cricket. Or maybe that’s just me..
Don’t get me wrong, I see the positives. NL managers have to be more wily, they can’t just sit there and let the players play. They have to pinch-hit and double switch when appropriate. The AL managers can just figure out who’s the crappiest defensive player, slap him in at DH and sit back with some chaw.
But face it, National League. Pitchers can’t hit. Sure, you get your occasional Mike Hamptons, Carlos Zambranos and Micah Owings; but those exceptions to the rule are few and far between. And even they aren’t putting up serious power numbers and getting on base like a normal solid hitter. Pitchers are made for pitching and hitters are made for hitting. And Don Zimmer’s made for sitting.
There’s only really been one pitcher (kid from Baltimore) who could really swing with the big boys. He eventually gave up pitching to hit full time. Then he ate a bunch of hot dogs and died. Oh, and Dan Shaughnessy thinks he cursed my favorite team; but that’s a load of hooey.
Connie Mack tried to get the rule changed back in the 1900s. Jon Heydler, the National League President in the 1920s, tried to get a tenth man in the lineup as a sort of DH. Then pitchers started kickin’ serious butt (I’m lookin’ at you, Gibson) in the late sixties and a few years later the American League finally gave in. So, Cardinals fans, the DH is basically your fault.
In 1973, the DH was made official and the game hasn’t been the same since. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on what team you root for. You’re especially ‘For’ if you’ve been a Mariners fan in the nineties or a Red Sox fan in the ‘aughts.
Opponents to the rule say it puts pitchers in a special class. Separating statistics, like in football. Why is this a bad thing? Like I said before, pitchers pitch. Making them do something else on top of their normal job seems unnatural to me. With the DH rule, pitchers can focus solely on pitching. This is why the AL has superior hide-hurlers year in/year out. A half-inning on the bench spent focusing on the next three hitters is much more valuable than having to put on a helmet, borrow someone else’s bat and swing wildly at three pitches or maybe give bunting a crack.
Why would you want to risk your ace pulling a hammy rounding first, doing something he shouldn’t have been doing in the first place? Yankees fans will point to The Artist Formerly Known As Chien-Ming Wang. The guy hurt himself running. Running! It’s like making Tom Brady go out and cover on punts.
Now I don’t think the DH rule is for everyone. I would be right at the front lines with NL fans if the league was thinking of adopting the rule across the board. I think it’s good to have one league with and one league without. That’s what makes the World Series the ultimate championship. Clashing styles meeting for the chance to decide who’s the best. And there is a more classical sense to the NL’s DH-less existence. Classic, not fun.
The DH makes hitters and pitchers better. The pitcher can focus on his pitches, and a powerhouse hitter who doesn’t bring much to the table in the defense category can concentrate on what he does best. And if somebody’s ailing, they can take a couple days off from the field. Anytime we’re on AstroTurf Mike Lowell practically fills out the lineup card himself.
Now obviously, all of this comes in light of the fact that Boston’s humble DH is slowly sinking into the sandpit of old age. His tired knees are bone-on-bone. His swings are late and slow. His confidence is shot.
But buck up, Sox fans. Things could be worse.
Imagine if he had to play first base.