When it comes to the Designated Hitter rule, there are usually two camps of people. One side favors the “preservation of the tradition.” And the other camp is in favors the advancement of the beautiful game of baseball. And a debate that has gone on since 1973. And over the last few offseason seems to have gained intensity towards a universal decision. We will examine a few reasons why adding the DH to the NL is a decision that should be made. And be sure to check out The Laracuente Ledger Podcast for corresponding analyst of the potential adaptation of the DH Rule to the NL.
Why Change Tradition?
Now the argument can be made that the DH has only been a part of the game of baseball 46 years. And that prior to that the game was played the National League way, where the pitcher must bat. The tradition of the game is a well-established principle of not just the history but also of the allure and mystic of the game. And changing the way the game was played will alter the integrity and compromise the game’s validity.
When Roger Maris passed Babe Ruth with his 61st home run the critics and even the baseball commissioner at the time (Ford Frick) said that an asterisk should be adjacent to the “record” in the history books. And there reasoning was soundly based on their principles. In 1961, the American League would play 162 games for the first time in the game’s existence. Prior to 1961, there were only 154 games played. That same season would be the final time the National League would play on 154 games. So whenever the game is faced with change, it is opposed in favor of “tradition.” However, it is through change that we now head into the 2019 season having the tradition we now speak of as fact. The game has changed and evolved, however slowly, but it has changed.
Same Game When It Matters
When the DH rule was first added it further separated the already separate American and National Leagues from one another. The American League and the National League were entirely separate entities. And the only time they would come together was during the World Series. Now, however, the game is very different from that time. Every day of the regular season is faced with something that was initially meant to be a rarity. And because we have Interleague play every day of the Major League season the line initially drawn in the sand separating the league has nearly faded away. No longer are there American League and National League umpires. There is only one thing that separates the game now, and that’s the Designated Hitter.
The most significant time in the baseball calendar is the World Series. And it is during the World Series that the DH (or lack thereof) matters the most. When games are played in the American League cities that AL teams have the advantage because most NL clubs don’t have that impact bat waiting and raring to go. And likewise, when in the National League cities the AL clubs face a big disadvantage because one of their most significant contributors is either relegated to the bench. Or the AL Manager must risk and sacrifice a better defender to have the offense the DH provides in the lineup. Some will say it requires strategy and challenges a manager. But what it does is devalues the integrity of one team over the other.
Faced With Decline
The DH rule was instituted out of necessity; it was coming off of some of the lowest run scoring in the history of the game. And as we approach the 2019 season, we are once again faced with a similar fate. In 2018 the game of baseball faced an outcome that has never happened in the lifetime of the sport. It was during the 2018 season that the wrong type of history was made. And what was the travesty that befell this great game you might ask? Well for the first time there were more strikeouts in a single season than hits.
Some may not see that as a big deal, but this is a problem for MLB. And while there is no easy answer to correcting it. A Universal DH policy adds potential offense to a game starved of action. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s “pace of play” initiative is for the advancement of the game. Adding in another hitter in place of a pitcher gives an opportunity to increase offense.
In this era of slow-moving offseasons and top-tier talent still being available on the free agent market on February 11th adding more job opportunities is crucial. While it may not seem like much at all adding 15 more Designated Hitter positions adds value to the game. The role of Designated Hitter has given the game of baseball some of the greatest players of our generation. Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz are the two names most synonymous with the position. But we also have legendary names like Frank Thomas and Jim Thome to add to the hallowed hall of great DHs in the game’s history. And add in DHs of today like JD Martinez or Nelson Cruz.
Adding the DH to the National League allows teams to employ players that don’t have an actual position but a potent bat a place to play. Think about the Chicago Cubs, Kyle Schwarber or the LA Dodgers’ Max Muncy. When adding the DH to the NL, these players won’t be missed casted as an outfielder or second baseman. They can be placed in their best position…Slugger.
When it comes to the decision of whether or not to add the DH to both leagues, it will always come down to personal preference. Some like the National League style while others (myself included) prefer the American League style. Recently, Justin Verlander chimed in and made his thoughts known. The game is at a critical juncture, and we need to have real hitters facing off against pitchers. Having pitchers hit adds no real offensive value, minus the exceptions such as Shohei Ohtani, Michael Lorenzen, and Madison Bumgarner. Nearly every other pitcher is a liability with a bat in their hands. The time is now with the MLBPA and MLB seemingly agreeing on this issue. Let’s make the change and welcome the Universal Designated Hitter to the MLB.
At least if the DH is implemented in the NL all pitchers in baseball will be compared on an even playing field. Who would you rather face?! David Ortiz or me?!!? Lol
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) February 7, 2019