The Sporting News reports this week that Major League Baseball owners are getting ready to install the Designated Hitter rule in the National League. The report cites concern from owners about interleague play causing teams to play under different rules and creating a competitive disadvantage, concern about pitchers getting hurt while hitting and a recent decline in scoring--that could drive away fans (more on that idiotic line of thinking later).
As a baseball purist, I HATE THE DESIGNATED HITTER!! It is and forever will be my firmly-held belief that the nine men who play in the field should be the nine men who bat in the order. The idea that one guy who can't field or throw at major league standards anymore gets to sit on the bench and still hit four or five times a game disgusts me. What's more, American League baseball is BORING--with hardly any strategy involved. The only thing an AL manager has to think about during a game is his starter's pitch count--while an NL manager could face a couple of situations where his pitcher--who is throwing well--may have to bat during a possible rally and you have to weigh his effectiveness against maybe getting one more run across the plate.
Maybe pitchers would be better hitters if they were given a chance through the lower levels of the game--where the DH is used 100% of the time--teaching younger players that the only thing that really matters is being able to hit home runs, don't worry about your fielding. The irony is that most MLB pitchers were good hitters coming up--usually playing shortstop when they weren't on the mound--but as soon as they got to college or the minors, the DH took the bat out of their hands.
And what an advantage it is to have pitchers that can hit. Why punish teams with good hitting hurlers by allowing teams with automatic outs in the number nine slot to substitute that with some guy who spends half the game back in the hitting cage below the grandstands working on his swing? Plus, MLB is looking to cut the length of games--so having an occasional easy out helps to speed things along. And when a pitcher is on the basepaths, you don't have the other pitcher throwing over the first base six times to "keep him close". If you need a "player safety" argument, pitchers having to hit also keeps those stupid beanball spats to a minimum, since the guy who just threw at your slugger's head will have to get his own butt in the box next inning to face to music.
As for the "we need more offense" argument, consider that the most offensive period in baseball history is now a time that we can no longer celebrate--since that was the "Steroid Era". Sure TV ratings were up to see how many homers Barry and Sammy and Mark were going to hit--but the game had to sell it's soul for those numbers--and NONE of those guys will EVER be in the Hall of Fame.
So instead of adding twelve more beefed up biceps and salaries to the rosters of National League teams, how about we GET RID of the DH in the American League so we can all play under the same rules and then call more strikes to pick up the pace of the game? We'll leave the high-scoring shootouts for the fantasy geeks in the NFL and the attention-challenged fans of the NBA.