With 2013 marking both the 40th anniversary of the baseball's designated hitter rule and an interleague game every day, it's time to get rid of the DH. Picture playing basketball where you only take the court on offense or a golf game where you only tee off and you have the designated hitter; a player who only bats and does not take the field. Baseball was unique for decades as the only major sport where leagues faced each other only in the World Series. Since teams began interleague play in 1997 the American League's designated hitter has further muddied the water.
Here's five reasons the designated hitter is dumb, particularly in the era of daily interleague play:
1) League rosters are different even though they face each other daily. Since Ron Bloomberg became baseball's first designated hitter in 1973 National League teams have always had more non-pitchers on their rosters than American League teams. Why? Because having a designated hitter means a manager needs fewer pinch hitters. With a daily interleague game managers don't have the luxury or flexibility to adjust their roster as in the past.
2) Strategy differs between the two leagues. There's simply more strategy involved in the National League. In the American League pitchers don't bat, which means AL managers don't have to worry about replacing a position player along with a pitcher (a double switch) when he uses a pinch hitter like they do in the National League. American League teams have to face an extra batter. As a purist, I prefer the National League.
3) The macho factor. Because they don't have to bat (or face retaliation) American League pitchers tend to be more bold with the "chin music" when facing batters. Do you think Roger Clemens would have tossed a bat at Mike Piazza in a National League park where he would have to bat and face a bean ball?
4) American League power stats are bloated. Fans of the American League expect more offensive power courtesy of the DH. Since 1973 American League teams overall score more runs, have a higher batting average and more home runs than their National League counterparts. In the DH era I would argue American League pitching stats should come with an asterisk.
5) The designated hitter prolongs careers. There's a reason not a single designated hitter is in the Hall of Fame. Guys like Fred McGriff, Harold Baines and Jim Thome would have been selling copiers or insurance much sooner if not for the ability to sit on the bench and swing a bat four times a night. If you're an aging slugger or limited by injuries you love the DH. Sadly, a strong case can be made the the DH is headed to the National League .
What's your take on the designated hitter? I would enjoy hearing from you in the comments section and hope you take part in our poll:
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Filed under: Baseball