After much deliberation and study of all the world’s pressing issues, I’ve decided that the one thing I most want to comment on is the use of the designated hitter by baseball’s American League.
OK, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the short version. In 1973, pitchers dominated hitters in baseball. The American League decided to try to turn the tide back to the offense by adding an additional hitter to team’s lineups and removing traditionally the worst hitter on the team, the pitcher.
Pitching is a skill that requires hours and hours of work, study, and practice to perfect. Hitting is such a skill, as well. No one has the time or the energy to devote to both pitching and hitting. The result is that by the time they reach the major leagues, the best athletes (who were often great hitters and great pitchers in high school and sometimes even college) have specialized in one or the other. So we have the paradox of players who are often the biggest and strongest players on the field being the most anemic hitters.
In the National League, the pitcher almost always bats last in the lineup. Not only that, but from the 6th inning on, pitcher at bats are rare. When the pitcher is scheduled up, the National League manager often calls on a pinch-hitter. This move not only removes the pitcher from what is often an embarrassing at bat, but also removes him from pitching the rest of the game. A new pitcher must enter once the team’s at bat is finished.
In the American League, there is no reason to take out a pitcher for a pinch-hitter, because the pitcher never bats. Not once. Instead, a Designated Hitter (usually a good hitter who doesn’t field well) takes one of the nine spots in the batting order.
OK, now I’ll tell you why the DH stinks.
It’s not because I love to watch pitchers bat. They’re pretty lousy. It’s not because I like the “strategy” of having the pitcher bunt with a runner on base. It’s pretty automatic, and while pretty, not nearly as exciting as when a bunt, hit-and-run, or steal are called in surprise situations.
So why? One reason. Bottom of the 6th, your team is down by a run, runner on 1st, 2 outs. Do you pinch-hit for your starting pitcher, or leave him in for one more inning? That’s the kind of gut-wrenching decision National League managers have to make 2-3 times a week. It’s a decision an American League manager never faces. That’s why the DH should go away.