The idea for this article has been around for a long time, and I have considered it for quite a while.
Baseball has long been a sport dedicated to pretending that progress is wrong. The baseball “purists” will always say that change should be avoided. And I must say, they have a point. As we have all witnessed throughout the course of this baseball year, the implementation of instant replay has all but destroyed our beloved sport.
Since baseball has clearly been crippled due to the travesty of instant replay, I would like to both kick it while it’s down and offer it a way to find safe haven and begin to work its way back to the top. As I said before, I have been considering this change for a while, but it became absolutely evident to me when I was at the Phillies/Giants game last night. The Phillies were looking to shut down the Giants with our ace starter Roberto Hernandez. Now, I have not been privy to seeing Hernandez pitch much this year, so I was actually excited to get to see a different pitching experience. That is until I saw Hernandez step up to the plate for the first time as a batter.
Think back to when you were last at the beach with your friends playing a friendly game of beach whiffle ball.
You are picking teams with all of your best friends and you have to decide between two new girls that your friend invited over to play with you. You were able to talk a little with one of the girls and she seemed awesome so you drafted her to play on your team. However, right when you called out her name, she goes, “oh, you don’t want me on your team, I’m not very good”. You think to yourself, come on, it’s not like any of us are professionals, how bad could she be? Then, she goes up to bat and is holding the bat the wrong way, swings when the ball is in the sand, and doesn’t actually look like she knew how to build up bat speed. The whole act of swinging looks foreign and inherently wrong.
Well, comparing her swing side by side with Roberto Hernandez’s swing, Hernandez would make her look like Ken Griffey Jr.
This brings us to the larger point of, why in the hell am I paying to watch Roberto ‘I think the bat is trying to attack me’ Hernandez try to hit the ball?! He obviously hates it, it adds more chances for injury to your starting pitcher, and makes the game less interesting. For a sport that is struggling to keep viewers, especially made evident during the World Cup as we saw up close that many Americans preferred soccer (oh the humanity!!) to a baseball game, allowing terrible offensive players to see the plate does not make much sense.
Baseball “purists” will say that allowing the pitcher to bat adds a level of game planning and strategy to the game that they can’t possibly do without. I would give this argument some validity if it wasn’t for the fact that half the league already does without the pitcher batting.
Consider, for a moment, if the NFL acted in a similar manner.
Imagine if the NFL allowed for the AFC to play an additional wide receiver but the NFC would still have to obey the original rules. This isn’t a particularly clear comparison, but that lends itself to my point. The fact that MLB allows for half of its league to play by a different set of rules is beyond comparison in professional sports.
There is also clear advantages to the NL implementing the Designated Hitter.
Take for instance, this year in baseball. Of the top ten teams in the league in runs scored, only three of those teams play in the NL (Colorado, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles Dodgers). What about a sexier stat, home runs? That is what fans come to the ball park for. Well, of the top ten teams in the league in home runs hit, eight of them are AL teams. Only Colorado and Milwaukee have cracked the top ten. Finally, let’s look at batting averages. If you guessed that seven of the top ten teams would be AL teams again, you would be correct. This time, the only NL teams are Colorado, the Dodgers, and Pittsburgh.
I get that this is a snap shot of only a few statistics, but it points to the larger point that the AL is far more successful offensively than the NL is. And this makes sense, especially when you see how unsuccessful Roberto Hernandez is up to bat. How is this game fair when half of the teams are putting out a lineup with nine players batting around .260 while the other half of the league have to continue to trot out eight players hitting .260 and one player who is barely hitting .067?
Switching to the DH for the NL would also help preserve some of the sports favorite players, allowing some of the most crowd pleasing players to extend their careers, making the fans and the owners happier as their pockets get deeper. Without the DH, how long would Big Papi really have played for?
Chase Utley would be able to rest his knees instead of having to play defense every day, or Ryan Howard could focus solely on improving his approach at the plate. This would not only improve the sport, but it would also improve the fans’ perspective of the sport. Fans would be able to root for their favorite players longer as they are allowed to maintain their high level of play longer.
So, please tell me why the NL must keep trotting out the pitchers to bat?
That’s right, it’s solely due to baseball’s absolute fear of change. That, OR there is something they fear more than change. Something, like preserving the ability to keep the closest relative of the deer in headlights off of the jumbo-tron.
Ok, good point. On second thought, I don’t need the DH that badly.