Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Designated Hitter: the NL Fan Perspective

Let's put it out there: I completely hate the idea of the designated hitter. Why should a player be allowed to play only one side of the game? If a player is only good at hitting, he can make it in the league; however, a player that is an exceptional fielder doesn't have the same advantage. How can a player that is literally on the field sporadically for three to five minute spurts a few times a day, be able to decide the result of the game. As a fan of the National League, I have one basic argument: If you hit, you must play in the field. Additionally if a pitcher does not have to bat, then he shouldn't be allowed to field.  You can do neither or you can do both, not one or the other.

There is so much to like about the National League's style of baseball, because it simply involves more strategy. Rarely do you see pinch hitters in the American League, because there are nine hitters already in the lineup. In the NL, it is almost guaranteed that somebody on your bench will come in and hit for the pitcher every single night. Also, NL coaches will have to pinch hit for their pitchers if they are losing late in the game, despite the pitcher's dominance and efficiency.

Why don't we put this into a possible situation.  Imagine you are Charlie Manuel, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.  You're losing 1-0 and you have Roy Halladay on the mound. It's the bottom of the seventh inning and it's 1st and 3rd with nobody out with Halladay stepping up to the plate. Halladay has thrown only 89 pitches and his only mistake came back in the third inning when he gave up a homerun, but other that he's been lights out. Ryan Madson, your closer has been used three of the last four days and you want to avoid using him again today. These are your options:

1. Pinch hit for Halladay with a cold bat on the bench and hope that you can tie or take the lead, setting up the bullpen to close out the game.

2. Keep Halladay in, because he can handle the bat well and hope that he can get the runner over and/or bring in the run from third.

If playing in the American League with a Designated Hitter, you'd probably have Carlos Ruiz or Ben Francisco batting in that situation. That would make life easy and you wouldn't have to do anything. This is exactly what makes the National League more exciting. Strategy is such an important part of the game and the manager must make so many tough decisions, especially late in games. The best case scenario in this situation would be to keep Halladay in and hope that he scores that tying run. In the AL, if you don't score in that situation, it doesn't affect your decision on who's pitching the next inning.

Proponents of the DH argue that baseball is simply more exciting when there is more scoring and better offense; however, I would much rather watch a 4-3 game than a 10-8 game. There's nothing better than a well-pitched game, countered by systematic hitting and bunting. Having the pitcher in the lineup makes it harder to score runs, which is what it should be like. If you want a high-scoring game, go watch replays of the steroid era.

Despite all that, I still don't mind that the AL uses the DH; however, I do have a problem when the AL tells the NL that they need to switch. Take a look at this quote from Hank Steinbrenner in the New York Post in 2008, following Wang's injury while running the basepaths.

"It's time the National League joins the 21st century," Steinbrenner told The Post, "or is forced to join. The National League is playing the same way it did in the 1880s. That's over with. The National League should have the designated hitter. There's no question the National League should have it.
What? Are you serious? If you have such a problem with the lack of a DH in the NL, then argue with the MLB to remove interleague play, don't make a ridiculous statement like that. Injuries are a part of the game and if it happens while running on the basepaths, then so be it. This is what makes us fans of the NL hate the AL even more. Yes they probably boast better talent and teams, but still they think they are always better. They've won a ridiculous amount of all-star games, but still in the past ten years the World Series have been split 50% between the AL and NL. 

Again, I have no problem with the AL using the DH, as long as I can watch some real baseball in the NL. The AL can play with 13 players on the field for all I care, but leave us alone.  Focus on your problems of getting fans in the stadium, because NL stadiums average almost 3,000 more fans per game. The NL doesn't need change, cause frankly, we're doing just fine.


Anonymous said...

Halladay cannot handle the bat well just fyi. He is very poor at the plate. He was 0/2 in sac bunt attempts last night

Anonymous said...

That scenario isnt a good example. Manuel absolutely leaves in Halladay to (attempt to) bunt the runner over to 2nd with no outs. Should have just used the scenario from last night where Charlie hit for Halladay with 2 outs and a runner in scoring position.

Anonymous said...

the AL is clearly one of the most superficial leagues in sports. it's the mcdonalds of baseball. i'd rather pay money to watch cliff lee throw a complete game 3-hitter and bat 2-5 then watch vladimir guerrero pretend to be a major league baseball player as a DH for the orioles

Sagar Parikh said...

You're right about the scenario. If there was one out there would definitely be more of a need to pinch hit. In the 7th inning, I dont know what Charlie Manuel would do there

Jon Brakke said...

I like the DH. I'd rather WIN than have more "strategy" or "excitement". Why throw away outs by sending a pitcher to the plate when he is god-awful with the bat? Then when you are down 1-0 late in the game you have to take out your ace who threw a miraculous game, and put in a pinch hitter just so you have a chance to win? I take all the runs i can get (especially since i am a Mariners fan, and they have the worst offense in history) It is more true to baseball to have everyone hit and field, but i'd take wins over "tradition" anyday.

Anonymous said...

Jon, but you're a Mariners fan, what do you know about winning?

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