National League to Add DH – Is It So Bad?

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Aug 21, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) hits a two run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 21, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) hits a two run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Sep 18, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) doubles in the seventh inning of the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Dodger Stadium. Dodgers won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) doubles in the seventh inning of the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Dodger Stadium. Dodgers won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Talking about the Designated Hitter

I have always been a fan of the National League. My two favorite teams – the San Diego Padres of course – and the Atlanta Braves – are National League teams. I grew up playing baseball through high school – and even have played in some adult baseball leagues up to my current ripe old age of 32. I am a pitcher – and so always have felt pride in hitting myself and still think the Greg Maddux / Tom Glavine Nike commercial about “Chicks Digging the Long Ball” is one of the best ever. I like the strategy. I like the sacrifice bunt. I like the history and tradition. I’m ready for the National League to adopt a universal Designated Hitter.

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Last week there was a lot of talk at the MLB owner’s meeting about the league voting to adopt the DH which might be ratified for 2017 season. Many pitchers like Adam Wainwright and Madison Bumgarner are very upset about it, and many other traditionalists as well. Last April when Wainwright went down for nearly a year after tearing his Achilles while hitting, he said, “I don’t think I can remember another pitcher injuring his Achilles at bat. It could’ve happened doing anything. It could’ve happened carrying my daughter up the steps. Baseball has to stay doing what it is.”

"Manfred weighed in as well last week: “…the biggest remnant of league identity is the difference between DH and no DH. I think that’s a significant issue, I really do. I think it’s an important issue for us. I’m not saying it’s not possible. But it is a significant issue on the other side of the scale.”"

In the beginning, the National League and the American League were separate identities. The National League was founded first in 1876, with the American League forming in 1901 after developing from the Western League. The two leagues fought off competition of the Federal League and others but essentially cooperated legally as separate entities from 1903 (the year of the first World Series) until 2000 when they merged into a single organization under the Commissioner of baseball. Until then they had separate umpires, president’s, and did not play each other during the regular season until inter-league play had started (controversially) in 1997.

The Designated Hitter was introduced in the American League in 1973 as a way to increase offense in the game as everyone noticed that except for outlier pitchers like Babe Ruth – pitchers were selected for their pitching and not their hitting. A nice way of seeing they were dreadful – and anyone who has watched a recent Bartolo Colon can attest for the majority this still holds true. This also allowed players who could mash the ball but not field their position well keep their major league jobs and focus on what they did best – hitting. Edgar Martinez became one of the most successful DH’s of all time and the debate rages over whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Bud Selig’s reigned over the game through one of it’s darkest times with the steroid scandals, but he also made some fundamental changes that were good for baseball. As Commissioner he was not being afraid to make changes. He added several teams via expansion to even out the leagues and divisions. He added one, then two wild card games which make the season more exciting longer into the season. He approved instant replay and inter-league play. Yet making a change to the Designated Hitter – held sacrosanct by many baseball traditionalists – will be on the desk of new commissioner Rob Manfred. A man who has already upheld Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti’s ban on Pete Rose that has been upheld by every commissioner since. What should he do?

Baseball recognizes that it needs to change to attract a new generation. Social media is doing a great job at making more players accessible to youth, and baseball is not marred by the violence and domestic issues that plague it’s biggest competitor in the sports-minded population the NFL. It is doing things to speed up the games themselves, not to mention building amazing new ballparks with entertainment, food, beverage options and even options for the kids. Petco Park, home of the Padres which opened in 2004, is a triumphant example of this.

The DH was brought in itself to help “fix” a problem present in the game. That the rule hasn’t changed in 43 years says something in of itself. Does the rule as it is hold relevance or perhaps is there a better way?

Next: What is Next for the DH?

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