As we push into another year of baseball, an old topic has made its way back to the forefront. And as the pros and cons for the DH coming to the National League are debated, money will come up in a lot of discussions, but it shouldn’t.
The designated hitter rule. A batter, who sits on the bench while the rest of his team goes out and plays defense, hits in place of that days’ pitcher. A pitcher who doesn’t have to worry about consequences and repercussions to himself if he hits a batter, since he doesn’t have to bat.
The San Francisco Giants have shown their opposition to the designated hitter, as written by John Shea.
- San Francisco Giants opposed to the DH-John Shea article published in SFGate yesterday.
And what about the strategy of the game with a DH? The manager puts out a line-up, and, well, hopes that it plays well that day. In the NL you have double switches, pitchers trying to pitch around the 8th hitter with a runner on third, and suicide squeezes by pitchers who know how to handle the bat.
You also have Madison Bumgarner, who is just as likely to hit one out than any of the DH’s in the American League. If you take Bumgarner’s numbers over the last two years and project them out over 162 games, he would hit 21 home runs. That would put Bumgarner 6th out of the top DH’s in the AL last year. (Just behind Kendry Morales’ 22 dingers.)
That isn’t to say that Bumgarner is the norm, he is not. But why is that? Bumgarner hit well in high school, as well as in his early minor league days. But for some reason, we tell some of the best athletes that it is okay to stop progressing as a hitter, because their calling card is in their arm.
There are obvious reasons why the DH will remain in the AL. Most importantly, there are currently fifteen teams who employ at least one player who is designated for the role. Therefore, you would be putting a lot of individuals out of work if it is abolished, so it won’t be.
But the rule has trickled down to college and other amateur and professional leagues. At what point are we telling a nine-year-old that they can only pitch, and another can only hit? Isn’t baseball supposed to be about developing an all-around player who just so happens to be a pitcher? When do we stop the dreams of a player who wants to play right field, and tell him “your arm is too valuable kid, you need to focus primarily on throwing off the mound”?
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With the DH in the senior circuit, there could be an increase in young ballplayers being allowed to work on hitting exclusively, and never own a glove. A baseball player, never owning a glove? Or a pitcher never having stepped in the box in their life? Is that baseball?
Are we to allow the game to become a game of specialists? How about a designated runner, when the designated hitter (who are normally known for their power, not their speed) hits a single to center?
Players don’t have a choice who drafts them. But a pitcher who can hit in high school or college should be able to continue to hit at the higher levels with work and dedication. They won’t have the same success that they did, since the competition will be tougher. But that doesn’t mean that they would rather not have a part of the offensive effort that the team is putting forth.
Pitchers like Bumgarner and Zack Greinke are known for being able to help themselves out at the plate. There are plenty of other pitchers who never get the chance to swing the bat, due to being drafted by an AL team (interleague notwithstanding).
The lowered risk of injury argument is laughable. Sure, teams invest a great deal of money in a right or left arm. They don’t want to see that arm on the disabled list due to getting a broken finger or pulled hamstring while hitting or running the bases. In that case draft pitchers who can handle the bat. Or hire coaches who can teach the skill needed. Have there been many pitchers in professional baseball who weren’t the best all-around players on their high school teams. That means they were able to hit then.
Of course it would be nice to have Angel Pagan hitting ninth as opposed to Jake Peavy or Matt Cain. But the team with a pitcher who can hit well is at an advantage. So it gives a pitcher an incentive to improve in that area.
Since 1973, the American League has had the opportunity to trot out a lineup that includes a player without a position in the field. Since there is already a place for players to go when their glove isn’t good enough, but their bat is, then there is no need to add that element to the National League.
The NL is still the purist form of baseball that there is. The game played by young boys and girls who improve at every position, and aspire to one day play in the big leagues anywhere on the field.
It would be unfortunate for the game if it did away with the ability to pitch, catch, field and throw, as well as learn how to just hit.
The National League still gives hope to those that want to watch the same game that they are playing at the Little League level. A game where everyone who is in the game is “in the game”. Not going in and taking batting practice while his team is trying to hold the opposition from scoring.
The designated hitter is fine in the American League, since it is already established, but to bring it to the National League would be a travesty to the game, that could eventually extend all the way down to the game that the children play on Little League diamonds.